New Delhi:Can Indian hockey sink any further?
Under KPS Gill, the Indian Hockey Federation has made sure that things have gone from bad to worse in Indian hockey.
Late on Sunday night, India lost 0-2 to Great Britain, and with it, failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in their history.
While winning and losing are a part of sport, the worrying aspect from an Indian point of view is that the team succumbs to the usual symptoms again and again, and the administration clearly has not been doing enough to change that.
Under a new coach Joaquim Carvalho, India looked like they were taking slow, steady steps to redemption. The Asia Cup win in 2007 was testimony to that. But next comes the news that India won't be taking that plane to Beijing later this year.
India: then and now
India had podium finishes for an astounding ten straight Olympics between 1928 and 1972. It included an amazing run of six straight golds between 1928 and 1956.
They also won the 1975 World Cup and won the Asian Games gold in 1966 and 1998.
But in the last six World Cups (since 1986), India have finished with the following ranks: 12, 10, 5, 9, 10 and 11.
And in the last Asian Games, in 2006, India finished an embarrassing fifth - the first time in 13 appearances that they did not finish on the podium.
On the field, the problems remain the same: botching corners and succumbing to pressure in a tight game remains a quintessential Indian trait in hockey.
Off the field, the reactions from IHF are consistent - losses are met with wholesale changes to the side, and players are selected or dropped at the whims and fancies of a powerful few.
It has driven many players to despair, most recently Viren Rasquinha. The former Indian captain, a talented midfielder was dropped on flimsy grounds last year and decided to retire from hockey to do an MBA. Another Indian captain, Dhanraj Pillay, has driven himself hoarse against Gill's autocratic ways but to no avail.
Some often blame cricket for ruining other sports. It's an argument formed on twisted reasoning. Cricket has come up its own hard way, having battled against hockey to become India's number one sport. Cricket provides enough lessons to other sports on how they could be successful.
Cricketers have endeared themselves to sponsors on the basis of solid performances. India has won every event worth winning and has been steady in its position in world cricket. This can't be said about hockey. To attract sponsors, they must first make their own play marketable.
Tennis, which wasn't the most loved sport in India, generated interest with the arrival of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, and became even more popular with the rise of Sania Mirza.
The two sports gained with the arrival of stars, who were backed up with good infrastructure, financial support and - arguably - transparent sport administration that has not been run to ground by babus with vested interests.
Hockey suffers in all three areas.
There's no dearth of talent in India. Hence, the problem must be at the top. The process of development starts from the top. It's time Gill and company were made accountable for their actions.
In most successfully run sport governing bodies, there are regular power shifts through democratic means. But IHF has been Gill's fiefdom and the results show he hasn't handled it well. It is only logical to say that he must step down and let someone more competent take over.