BENGALURU: From July 12, the Bengaluru Super Division Hockey League has been on at the Karnataka State Hockey Association (KSCA) Stadium. The group stage matches received good patronage. On July 19, some 15 km from KSHA, the city was hosting the first Test between India and New Zealand at the Sports Authority of India campus. One would think that the match featuring Asian Games-bound India players in a World Cup year would also have pulled in the crowds. Right? Wrong. Apart from a handful of national campers who were already in situ, fans were deprived of the opportunity to watch the sport they live and breathe.
The situation was a bit better for the second match on Saturday — the hosts won 3-1 — but the lack of knowledge of an international bilateral series was depressing, to say the least. For example, a bunch of students from the National Law School had accidentally ‘dropped in’ after finishing a swimming session. Another of the 100-odd fans (that number was in the tens for the first match), who had watched the second encounter, Bhaskar Krishnaswamy, spoke passionately about the bizarre situation. “I am going to write a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office and will copy the sports minister in it,” he said.
“International matches like these should be held in proper stadiums so that more people can have access to it.” Even the New Zealand coach, Darren Smith, was taken aback by the setting. “The initial plan was to hold the series in Bhubaneswar but because World Cup preparations are ongoing, it was shifted here. We knew it was going to be at the Indian team’s training facility but playing in front of a big crowd would have been pretty good.” While both teams maintained a good pace throughout the contest, it still had a weird air to it — like a training fixture.
The atmosphere was non-existent even as small pockets of the crowd tried to cheer India. In fact, at one stage, just around the 30-minute mark, the security guard had to lock the gates to the ground to prevent more people from walking in. It was an understandable measure because the training facility isn’t designed to hold more than a handful of fans.
But why put yourself in a place where you would have to turn away fans in the first place? When Express tried to get in touch with the relevant authorities — Hockey India, Bengaluru Hockey Association and Hockey Karnataka — to try to get an answer, a ‘no comment’ was the only one forthcoming. Meanwhile, Krishnaswamy, who had brought his son to the stadium to get him enrolled in a basketball class, had a question. “Is this the second or the third match?” The third and final match of the ongoing series is on Sunday.
India 3 (Rupinderpal Singh 18, SV Sunil 27, Mandeep Singh 56) bt New Zealand 1 (Stephen Jenness 24).