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With Odisha Investing Fortune In Hockey Why Few Native Players Make It To Team India?

18 January 2020

Snigdha Chandan Das

Bhubaneswar: As the Indian Men's Hockey Team is making its debut in FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Saturday, the thin count of Odia players in the team despite the State promoting the sport has raised many concerns.

In an attempt to address the concerns, OMMCOM NEWS met with veteran sports journalist Sundeep Misra, Editor of NNIS Sports and former Editor-in-Chief of Sports Illustrated India, who said Hockey India follows a pattern during team selection and picks the right position players.

However, he said the State Government and the Sports Department of Odisha along with Hockey India also needs to figure out how to get more Odia players into the national team. If the State can organise international events at a go in Bhubaneswar, it can also organise national junior and national sub-junior hockey events in Sundargarh to see the quality of players.

Speaking in context of the FIH Hockey Pro League, where only two Odia players are in the national team, Misra said that FIH (International Hockey Federation) has no role in national team selection. The final team selection is also not in the hand of the selectors. They only prepare the list and eventually the coach and High Performance Director of Hockey India select the national team.

He, however, opined that a dialogue is needed between Hockey India selection committee and the State Government to be able to ensure that a deserving player is not left out of the national team. It is said that Odisha is the cradle of Hockey, so there needs to be at least six to seven players or just five players in the national team. The number needs to go up.

Comparing the Odia players with that of Punjab, Misra said that Odisha is the only State Goverment which is investing in Hockey and keeping the sport alive, but there are more academies in Punjab but such academies are in a budding stage in Odisha. If there are more players from Punjab in the national team it is because they deserve it, but there are players from Odisha who also deserve but are probably not getting the push or voice.

Somebody from Odisha needs to push it because somebody from Punjab is pushing those players, said Misra. He further said that Punjab is an aggressive State; if a player from there doesn't get a chance in the team he will ask why he is denied a chance but players from Odisha are not aggressive in nature, so sometimes Hockey India takes advantage of this. Players from Odisha will never ask why he has been not taken in the team but return home and wait for next camp.

Misra also opined that the State Government needs to invest in setting up astro-turfs in universities, organise inter-university matches to promote the game. Further, there is a need to put some money into Hockey India League.

Sundeep Misra, Editor, NNIS Sports