The Indian government's decision to cancel Pakistan's hockey tour of India in April has disappointed senior Indian star V.R. Raghunath and generally, the entire sport fraternity. In an exclusive chat with NDTV.com from Bengaluru on Friday afternoon, Raghunath said "sport was defenseless against any political issues and the average fan has to bear the brunt."
In wake of the suicide attack on a CRPF camp in Srinagar on Wednesday and the uneasy political climate between the Indian and Pakistani government around Afzal Guru's hanging in Delhi last month, the Ministry of External Affairs on Friday cancelled the bilateral series between the two nations in April.
"It's disappointing because we as a team were looking forward to the series and it would have been a good way to prepare for the FIH World League 3," said Raghunath.
Raghunath feels hockey was striking the right chord after India and Pakistan played a ODI and T20 cricket series earlier this year. "Cricket showed the way and hockey picked it up, but when the political climate is not very good, Hockey India can do very little," the burly penalty corner specialist said.
Supporting the MEA decision, Hockey India chief Narinder Batra has said: "Sports can't be seen in isolation, as nothing is more important than the country's pride and dignity. We were expecting crowds as it's India versus Pakistan, but that's not more important than India's pride."
Pakistan and India last played a bilateral hockey series in 2006 -- three matches in each country. Pakistan won three and lost one while the remaining two were drawn. On similar lines, Pakistan were to play five Test matches in India between April 5-15 in Ranchi, Lucknow, Delhi, Mohali and Jalandhar.
"A cancellation means the hockey fan is denied of watching some good Asian hockey. At a time when India and Pakistan have lost their hold on international hockey, such a series would have been a great boost," said Olympian Raghunath, adding: "Playing a series like this on a neutral ground is not the same as playing in your own country and in front of your own fans."
Hoping the political tension would soon be "drag-flicked", Raghunath hoped that the series against Pakistan becomes a "reality."
"As players we remain great friends. We meet them in international tournaments and there is no tension there. Hope hockey can ease the political troubles," Raghunath signed off.