Indian hockey is reading itself for a new dawn under the presidentship of former Indian captain and three-time Olympian Dilip Tirkey. There is a great deal of anticipation among hockey lovers that the Odisha stalwart and his team of elected members would drive greater accountability and transparency in the functioning of Hockey India and propel Indian hockey to new heights. But eyebrows are raised against the presence of Hockey Rajasthan President Arun Saraswat as one of the five Executive Board Members of Hockey India.
Former Indian midfielder and Olympian Sujit Kumar, says the presence of Hockey Rajasthan President Arun Saraswat as an Executive Board Member does not augur well for Indian hockey. “Arun Saraswat has been a big disappointment for Hockey Rajasthan. I may be from Uttar Pradesh but have spent a considerable amount of time coaching kids in Rajasthan. I had been a coach of a hockey academy in Rajasthan for 3-4 years and I can tell you that hockey in Rajasthan is the doldrums,” he says in a chat with Hockey Passion.
Kumar, who has made 240 international appearances, is concerned that the presence of someone like Arun Saraswat as Executive Board Member in Dilip Tirkey’s team can sully the clean reputation of the former Indian captain. “I was the happiest person like many others when Dilip Tirkey was elected Hockey India President – being his Indian Airlines coach I feel that he is the right man to take Indian hockey forward. Dilip Tirkey is not just an illustrious player but a good human being as well. I want Dilip Tirkey and his team to set an example on how to run Hockey India like never seen before and I just hope the reputation of Dilip Tirkey is not tarnished by the presence of Arun Saraswat in his team,” he calls spade a spade.
Interestingly, Saraswat is serving his fourth consecutive term at Hockey Rajasthan – he was elected unopposed as Hockey Rajasthan President for the second consecutive term (after first becoming President in 2018) after serving as Hockey Rajasthan secretary-general in 2010 and 2014. The former Indian Airlines player asserts that his continuance as Hockey Rajasthan official is in gross violation of norms laid out. “How can Arun Saraswat be allowed to hold office for 12 years as rules clearly state that the President can hold office a maximum period of 12 years without or break, while the secretary-general can hold office for two consecutive terms of four years each after one minimum cooling-off period of one term would apply to seek fresh election. Arun Saraswat has been holding office of Hockey Rajasthan since 2010, which is a grave violation of laid-out norms,” he says.
Kumar, who had featured at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, shared a shocking development that Hockey Rajasthan is not even registered till date. “I believe the registration process was initiated in 2016 and till now it is not registered – in fact, Hockey Rajasthan is not even affiliated to Rajasthan Sports Council and all affairs are run as per whims and fancies of Arun Saraswat,” he says.
It is pertinent to mention that the newly-elected Hockey India team does not have representations from hockey hubs such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Chattisgarh, but have two representations from Hockey Rajasthan – a state that cuts a sorry figure in nationals across age-groups (men & women).
A statistical look at Rajasthan hockey team’s performances in the nationals indicate that all is not well in Rajasthan hockey. At the 12th Hockey India Senior Men Nationals in Bhopal, Hockey Rajasthan were walloped 0-12 by Hockey Punjab and hammered by Delhi Hockey 0-10 as they crashed out in the pool stage At the 12th Hockey India Senior Women Nationals also held in Bhopal, Hockey Rajasthan lost 0-4 to Hockey Maharashtra but did beat Hockey Uttarakhand 3-1 but still crashed out in the league phase.
Hockey Rajasthan again cut a disappointing figure at the 12th Hockey India Senior Junior Men Nationals in Kovilpatti, where they were thumped 0-5 by Hockey Association of Odisha, whipped 0-4 by Dadra & Nagar Havelli and Daman and Diu Hockey and only settled for a 1-1 draw against Le Puducherry Hockey. Even at the 12th Hockey India Senior Junior Women Nationals in Kakinada, Hockey Rajasthan were clobbered 1-7 by Uttar Pradesh Hockey, they also lost 2-3 to Mizoram and save for a consolation 7-5 win over Hockey Bihar their performances were not much to talk about. At the 12th Hockey India Sub-Junior Men Nationals in Goa, Hockey Rajasthan were smashed 1-20 by Dadra and Nagar Havelli and Daman and Diu Hockey, 0-13 by Hockey Manipur and 1-5 by Hockey Himachal.
Hockey coach and Hockey Bhilwara secretary Puran Rao, who runs the Dhyan Chand Hockey Club alleged that tournaments are hardly held under the auspices of Hockey Rajasthan. “There are hardly any tournaments held in Rajasthan and hockey is indeed suffering in the state,” he says with a tinge of frustration.
Rao shared a startling revelation that Hockey Rajasthan once fielded a 48-year-old in the 2012 Senior Nationals in Bengaluru. “Selection of teams for nationals leave a lot to be desired. here. I can still recall the 2012 senior nationals in Bengaluru where Rajasthan team fielded a 48-year-old. It’s hard to fathom how a 45-plus person can play in the state team for the senior nationals,” he spells out.
The Bhilwara-based coach also alleged that coaches of teams for nationals are picked on a different set of parametres under Arun Saraswat. “Merit is never a criterion while picking coaches for nationals in Rajasthan. For any inter-district tournament, the onus of the organizational expenses lies with the hosting district and someone from that district will only go with the state team for nationals as coach irrespective of whether he or she knows ABC of hockey,” Rao says bluntly.
Former Hockey Rajasthan President Shobha Singh echoed similar sentiments. “I served two terms as Hockey Rajasthan President (2010-14 & 2014-16) and during that period I used to receive several complaints about Arun Saraswat taking money and fielding outside players in Rajasthan teams for the nationals,” says the former state midfielder who represented Rajasthan in the nationals on 11 occasions.
Singh, who is also a former Hockey India Vice President, says she tried her best for the betterment of Rajasthan hockey but also found elements conspiring against her. “As a former player I would always have players’ interest as my top priority. I even wrote to Rajasthan Olympic Association President late Janardhan Singh Gehlot about Arun Saraswat but my efforts proved futile. I suspended him for 15 days in 2016 and issued a show-cause notice, but I was ousted as Hockey Rajasthan President in 2016 because I started to question his way of functioning,” she pointed out.
Clearly, hockey in Rajasthan is not in good health administrative-wise. One hopes that a man with a great reputation like Dilip Tirkey would take cognisance of what’s happening in Rajasthan hockey and act accordingly.
Rajasthan’s Performances at Nationals
|12th Hockey India Senior Men|
Nationals – Bhopal
|Hockey Rajasthan lost to Hockey|
Punjab 0-12, lost to Delhi Hockey 0-10
|12th Hockey India Senior|
Nationals – Bhopal
|Hockey Rajasthan lost to Hockey|
Maharashtra 0-4, beat Hockey Uttarakhand
|12th Hockey India Sub-Junior|
Men Nationals – Goa
|Hockey Rajasthan lost to Dadra and Nagar|
Havelli and Daman and Diu Hockey 1-21,
lost to Hockey Manipur 0-13, lost to Hockey Himachal 1-5
|12th Hockey India Junior Men Nationals – Kovilpatti||Hockey Rajasthan lost to Hockey Association of Odisha 0-5, lost to Dadra and Nagar|
Havelli and Daman and Diu Hockey 0-4,
drew Le Puducherry Hockey 1-1
|2th Hockey India Junior|
Women Nationals – Kakinada
|Hockey Rajasthan lost to Uttar Pradesh|
Hockey 1-7, lost to Hockey Mizoram 2-3,
beat Hockey Bihar 7-5