‘Indian hockey needs to catch up’

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Former captain of the Indian hockey team and aggressive forward, resilient in the face of the pressure holding him down; he is the man who revived our national sport at a time when it was scarcely regarded.

The recipient of several prestigious awards for his contribution to the sport, Dhanraj Pillay was in Coimbatore recently to attend a valedictory function at Camford School. We caught up with the hockey legend to hear his opinions about the state of the country’s national sport.

He began the conversation by sharing the reason for his visit to the city, “Theatre sport is a new concept that has definitely caught my eye. When I was invited to attend this event, I thought why not.”

On a more serious note, he opines about the current Indian hockey team and their chances at the upcoming Olympics Games in London, “We will be happy if we finish in the top six.”

“We need to be realistic about this because countries such as Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain have climbed up the leader boardand taken the game to another level. India has a fair bit of catching up to do,” he adds.

With experienced players Shivendra Singh, Yuvraj Walmiki, Adrian D’Souza, Vikram Pillay and Arjun Halappa, who have all played for the national team, what will it take to move up the leader board?

Dhanraj replies, “Aggressiveness and a go-getter attitude on the field are very important to succeed. For now, patience, constant training and understanding the challenges can help propel them at this stage.”

What does he have to say about the fact that the recent advent of the hockey league hasn’t done anything for talent outside the hockey federation or in Tamil Nadu for that matter?

“There were many good players at the hockey premier league, who have sadly gone unnoticed by the hockey federation. The problem is with the plight of hockey in the country.

The on-going controversy over the existence of two hockey federations has only resulted in the loss of fine young sportsmen.

The need of the hour is to bring former players into the administration and give them a free hand to sort out this mess,” notes Pillay.

On being the recipient of a number of prestigious awards, he says, “Receiving the Arjuna, Padma Shri and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards were most memorable for me. In fact, receiving the Khel Ratna helped erase some bitter memories for me.”

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