Day 6: Mohali
It perhaps says something about the fallen status of hockey in the subcontinent in relation to cricket that the men who were in charge of the security of the cricketers in Mohali on Tuesday night were former hockey players. And not just any old hockey players but bona-fide legends.
Rajpal Singh and Gagan Ajit Singh are both celebrated Indian hockey stars, winners of tournaments and national awards; Rajpal is a former Indian captain and Gagan a star striker.
Both are now full-time employees with Punjab Police and were on duty on Tuesday night. Rajpal still plays hockey and gets up at 6.30 in the morning to be able to fit in a game before he heads off to duty.
He does not seem to mind it either, telling ESPNcricinfo: “I am not doing this as a former India captain. I am doing this is a policeman. I am a hockey player from 6.30am to 8.30am.”
Now this happens often in Mohali, which is understandable for a region that has always been a steady supplier of the country’s finest hockey players.
In the past, a couple of India’s best athletes have also served as security at international matches. Pargat Singh, the legendary defender who captained India in two Olympics in the 1990s was also posted for games in the late 1990s.
Still, they have it better than their counterparts in Pakistan, who, like India, was once among the most successful hockey nations in the world. Over the past five years, the Pakistan Hockey Federation has had to repeatedly withdraw from tournaments because they have been so bankrupt they have been unable to cover the expenses of sending a full squad of players.
Their best players have gone months without being paid to play for Pakistan. For a major event two years ago, they had to rely on a local businessman with love for the game to put together the finances for the trip.
Osman Samiuddin’s World Twenty20 diary:
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