Long awaited? Maybe not. Was it on the cards? Certainly not. But, when the news broke out that the Indian girls team had won its first ever medal in the Junior Hockey World Cup, it was greeted not with surprise but with jubilation. The sense of euphoria that engulfed the hockey fraternity across the country was almost palpable and for a change, popular media in the country, which is obsessed with even the most insignificant occurrences in cricket, decided not to relegate this piece of news to a mere footnote and gave the team its due.
In a nation where the mere mention of cricket will galvanise the majority of the populace and success in other sports has remained nothing more than a distant dream, this was a seminal moment. For close to two decades now, the fact that hockey is in fact India's national sport has been all but forgotten. Thanks to the textbooks and the schoolteachers, it has not slipped quietly into oblivion. For close to four decades, India ruled the roost in men's hockey and for those who watched the Indian hockey team practically toy around with its opposition in its heyday, the decadent state of the game in India today is a major source of disappointment for sure.
The accomplishment by the Indian eaves is path-breaking in more ways than one. First and foremost, the nation, albeit a very small part of it, has woken up to the reality that, apart from cricket, there is another team sport in which India can prove to be a tour de force. Of course, it would be premature to read too much into what was an achievement, after all, at the junior level. But, the fact that India has a competent side at the junior level augurs well for the future. Administrators of the sport in the country now have an available pool of players who, if guided properly, can achieve many a remarkable feat in the foreseeable future.
To merely bask in the glory of the hour and forget the long-term implications of the accomplishment would not be wise. Hockey India needs to acknowledge the fact that talent in the country needs to be developed at the grass roots
Whether this extraordinary achievement by some truly remarkable young girls will help to increase interest in the game remains to be seen. Seeing as how even the Hockey India League failed to generate interest across the country, one might opine that until and unless the Indian hockey teams start tasting success at the global stage on a more regular basis, the following for hockey is not really going to increase. With these dreams in mind, the administrators of the game in the country need to make plans for the future.