New Delhi:Cricket should first fetch eight World Cup before it replaces hockey as India's national sport, according to the Olympians.
"Make cricket India's national sport, but first they should win eight World Cups because it is not an Olympic sport," said two-time Olympian Baljeet Singh Saini.
Three-time Olympian Baljeet Singh Dhillon echoed his view and said though the cricket team has been doing well but hockey's glorious past should not be forgotten either.
"The Indian cricket team is doing well these days and deserve to be called the number one team but one should not forget that hockey has won eight gold medals in the Olympics despite lack of facilities," he said.
Player-turned-coach Vasudev Bhaskaran, who led India to its eighth Olympic gold in 1980 Moscow Games, said it hardly makes a difference whether hockey remains the national sport considering the abysmal state of affairs.
"Hockey might be the national sport but it has never got its due that goes with this status. I don't think it makes a difference to hockey," he said.
"I remember that we practised on grass and went to Olympics where we had to play on astro-turfs. We didn't have a single astro-turf before the 1982 Asian Games (in New Delhi). We still went on to win eight Olympic golds just on the back of our passion for the sport," he added.
Bhaskaran said cricket, despite being a non-entity in more than half of the world, is a craze in India because of the way it has been marketed by its administrators. "How many countries play cricket ... 10, 12 or 20?" he asked.
"That number doesn't even make it eligible to become an Olympic sport. But public interest, glamour and brilliant basic facilities have taken it to the level which should have been hockey's," he said.
Former cricket captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi had called for replacing hockey with cricket as India's national sport.
Dhillon said Pataudi's suggestion took him by surprise. "I was amazed when I came to know of his suggestion. Agreed, cricket is doing well right now but hockey has given so many glorious moments to our country," he said.
"It's true hockey is in desperate need for revival but it doesn't deserve to be set aside like this," added Saini.