Hockey Maharashtra dished out a creditable performance, finishing fourth at the 11th Hockey India Senior Men National Championship that was held at Pune last month. But what was hugely surprising was the fact that not a single player from Maharashtra found a berth among the 60 probables announced by Hockey India. Hockey Maharashtra overcame Mizoram, Chhatishgarh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu en route to the semifinals, where they lost to eventual champions Hockey Punjab 0-3 in the semifinals and subsequently went down 2-5 to Hockey Karnataka in the bronze medal play-off tie.
Emerging as the country’s fourth best side was not enough for Maharashtra players to catch the attention of Hockey India selectors and coaches. The likes of former Indian goalkeeper Akash Chikte, Mohd Nizam, Darshan Gawkar and midfielder-cum drag-flicker Pratap Shinde were impressive throughout the senior nationals and it is hard to imagine none of these guys got a look-in among the 60 probables. It is hard to swallow the fact that they aren’t among the top-60 players of the country. Interestingly, Hockey Maharashtra captain Taleb Shah was the top goal-scorer with 14 goals.
As many as eight goalkeepers were picked among the 60 probables and it is nothing short of shocking to see Akash Chikte not being part of the probables. Chikte had a blockbuster run at the Senior Nationals, even pulling off three superb saves in the quarterfinal against Tamil Nadu, where they won the shootout 2-0 after both teams were locked 2-2 in regulation time.
Why will hockey lovers will not be surprised at the inexpicable absence of Maharashtra players among the 60 probables? Players from teams such as Tamil Nadu and Chattisgarh whom Hockey Maharastra defeated en route to the semifinals found berths among the 60 probables. “It is hard to digest the fact that not a single Maharashtra player is among the 60 probables. The top goal-scorer of the Senior Nationals was from Maharastra. Players gave their best in the nationals and this can be demotivating for the state players if their performances do not get rewarded,” says a former international player requesting anonymity.