Days after Hockey India announced that both teams will not participate in next year’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games, sports minister Anurag Thakur said it was not the federation alone that would decide. Thakur went on to say that such a decision should be taken by a National Sports Federation (NSF) in consultation with the government because the teams represent the country. “It is not the federation’s team alone, it’s the nation’s team as well. In a country of 130 crore people, there are not just 18 players who can represent the country … ”
The reason for withdrawing from the Commonwealth Games was understandable. HI experts felt it would be prudent to give CWG a miss and concentrate on the Asian Games because it’s through this route that India can qualify for the Olympics. It would also give both teams enough time to prepare. As per current ranking, only Australia is ranked ahead of India in CWG. However, there was some kind of mischief when they announced the decision to withdraw. Along with its intention to pull out, the HI said it couldn’t risk sending its players to the UK, which has been one of the worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. It also alluded to the UK’s discriminatory quarantine rules for travellers from India. Interestingly, the announcement was made a day after the England team pulled out of the junior men’s World Cup.
The decision to withdraw, though, is too extreme. In fact, if anything, it would have given the men’s team the perfect opportunity to prepare for the Asian Games by facing the likes of Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Canada, all of them higher ranked than Malaysia, the second-best Asian team. The decision to not send the women’s team at least has some logic to it as the women’s World Cup finishes 11 days before the beginning of the Commonwealth Games. Though it’s always the Indian Olympic Association that sends teams to multi-disciplinary events like the CWG, the federation puts a team together and the government would be funding their training and competition calendar. It is only logical that such a decision be taken in consultation with all stakeholders. With CWG months away, one hopes all stakeholders find an amicable solution.