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Domestic tourneys need more care

S. Thyagarajan

Chennai: There is a distressing disconnect in the scheduling of coaching camps, tours and tournaments that Hockey India can be blamed for triggering a slow death to domestic competitions.

In the list now is the century-old, Madras Cricket Club tournament, sponsored by the Murugappa Group.

For the second year in succession this second oldest tournament, to be held here from July 15, is deprived of projecting the best national talent, thanks to the sudden announcement of a coaching camp in Bangalore from July 1.

Professional governance encompasses a strategic calendar planning without ambiguity. But HI's programmes are ad hoc, haphazard and lack clarity.

Domestic tournaments are the life blood for structuring the national edifice.

But successive administrations have turned a blind eye to the importance of national level events.

Whatever might have been the shortcomings of the regimes in the Sixties and later, domestic competitions enjoyed a stature of their own.

The Aga Khan and Gold Cup in Bombay, Beighton Cup in Calcutta, Scindia Gold Cup in Gwalior, MCC and MUC tournaments in Chennai, were viewed as selection tournaments.

The argument that national compulsions have come in the way is unacceptable. In fact, in the earlier regimes, the Indian teams played more competitions and went on longer tours without disturbing the domestic schedules.

Embarrassment

What needs to be highlighted here is the embarrassment of the organising units in facing the sponsors. Without their support, the tournaments are doomed. Competitions lacking in glamour and star value are not worth a look by big sponsors.

In the case of the MCC-Murugappa tournament, the dates were finalised by Hockey India after exasperating discussions and exchange of a pile of letters. Every effort was made to ensure that there were no intervening international competitions prohibiting the participation of top stars.

But the sudden announcement of the coaching camp has upset all calculations.

The authorities are forced to run from pillar to post for entries. Top ranking teams are either unwilling to participate or have expressed the inability to field their best.

Leading institutions like the oil companies, banks and boards, who have invested a lot to appoint the players on their rolls are forced to field or withdraw from events fearing a loss of reputation in the event of heavy defeats. The whole purpose of recruiting top stars is lost if the units are unable to participate under their own emblem.

A national call has an unquestionable priority. But it is in balancing the schedules, tours and tournaments lies the efficiency of a national federation.

Hockey India is neither geared for it nor seems interested in getting its priorities right.

While the necessity to have such long and colourless camps for months on end needs to be examined in depth, it is also time for the institutions to have a say in framing the national calendar.

The frustration and disappointment of the officials connected with the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup and the sponsor are a warning to those venturing to host all-India tournaments.

Domestic competitions undoubtedly maintain hockey's tempo and ethos.

Pushing them into death-bed through indifference and ineptitude is tantamount to destroying the seeds of growth.

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