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Shame on national game

India's rising hockey star Yuvraj Walmiki's life in penury -- without power, without water and sometimes without food in a 16x16 sqft  shanty in downtown Mumbai -- is not uncommon for a sport that has typically never got the monetary support that cricket gets. Hockey may be India's national sport, but its administration is a national shame.

But the idea of sport -- or at least the idea of motivating sportsmen -- in India is that it is directly related to the results they achieve. This is an absurd method of conducting sport in a nation that has very few global superstars. If anything, motivation should be a grassroots exercise, not a top-down sham where feudal-minded state governments -- just as the emperors would during the days when emperors existed -- reward their court magicians with gifts for performing a particularly difficult trick.

If not for Walmiki and his team's victory in the Asian Champions Trophy, the new-look Indian hockey side would not even have been noticed, leave alone been encouraged to perform at the extremely demanding international level.

What needs to happen, really, is that the coin needs to turn the other way around. For instance, if India wants to seriously regain its past glory in international hockey, it cannot plan for instilling a world-class technique in players at the national team level. In fact, players should qualify for the national side because they are of international class.

For this, the administrators must ensure that infrastructure is rightfully allocated to all levels, and that talent is spotted at the right time. This is hard work. While many may grudge Indian cricketers their money, the truth is that the cricket board -- despite its various shortcomings -- has managed the game pretty well in terms of infrastructure and the facilities provided to players. Perhaps it is time hockey administrators did the same as well.

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