The strongly-worded missive by International Hockey Federation (FIH) President Narinder Batra to the top mandarins of Hockey India, wherein he termed the recent performances of the national team ‘unacceptable’ and asked Hockey India to explain the reasons for the same, has caught the attention of the hockey fraternity. The general line of thought was whether Batra as President of the world hockey body, or even as Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President has exceeded his brief by writing to Hockey India. Surely, the letter hasn’t gone down well with people who love hockey – althought no one in Hockey India is saying much in public domain, the stern letter has caught even the Hockey India officials by surprise.
Former Olympian and a member of the 1975 World Cup-winning team, Aslam Sher Khan, puts things in perspective. “If this is not interfering in the affairs of Hockey India, then what it is? It is unfortunate because Hockey India is answerable to the Sports Ministry and SAI and FIH should have no business to meddle in the affairs of Hockey India.”
Khan, a former two-time MP, who wrote his autobiography titled ‘To Hell With Hockey‘ in the early eigties, was categorical that Batra’s strongly-worded letter amounts to a conflict of interest. “How can a FIH president ask national sports federation (NSF) officials to meet him and explain the team’s poor performance. It does gives the impression that he wants to control Hockey India from outside, which does not augur well for the sport.”
The former fullback, who came on a substitute and scored an important equaliser in the dying moments of the 1975 World Cup semifinal againsts hosts Malaysia to stretch the contest into extra time where Harcharan Singh produced the match-clincher, called for more respect for Hockey India officials. “Hockey India officials deserve more respect and they must operate using their own wisdom since they are an independent body and accountable to the Sports Ministry and SAI who provide funds to them.”
It is worth mentioning here that the former hockey stalwart has challenged some irregular appointments in Hockey India including that of Batra as a ‘Life Member’ in the Delhi High Court.