Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Gold medal winning Hockey team in 1964 Tokyo Olympics was coached by a person who played hockey wearing dhoti in his young days 11-22

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            Habul Mukherjee with Balbir Singh (member of gold winning Indian team of 1964)

India was coached by Habul Mukherjee, who used to play hockey in a dhoti in his heydays. The team went on a two and half month tour to New Zealand and Malaysia before heading to Tokyo.

Habul Mukherjee (N.N. Mukherjee) was along with Dhyanchand a member of the first Hockey Gold Medal winning  of 1928. 


IHF President Ashwini Kumar did the running commentary for Akashvani in the final at 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Each move forward by India was a potential goal in his eyes. And when Mohinder Lal converted the penalty stroke, a hysterical Ashwini Kumar cried himself hoarse. It was an instant in which Akashvani and Ashwini Kumar were made for each other, a sound-byte that would become frozen in time.

This amounted to more than making amends for the first loss of Olympic hockey finals and the shocking loss of gold medal to Pakistan after winning the hockey Olympic gold for six consecutive years from 1928, with the 1940 and 1944 Olympics being not conducted due to world II.

The shock of losing the Olympic gold in 1960 Rome was almost as intense as losing the war to China two years later in 1962. It was a common sight to see some students or other weeping in the school for the dear one lost in the war.

 I did not understand, why wars were fought (I still don't), but I learned, how valuable a life is, and how much of a vacuum it creates, when it is lost.

 I was nine years old, too young to understand politics, but old enough to understand sports. Like every other Indian, it was emotionally high, it was almost a "Paradise Regained" situation."

we hadn't still got into the too much of sports situation like these days, where we brush off both victory  and defeat with a seemingly mature 'We win some, we lose some statement.

As usual the gloom turned into criticism of Indian Hockey Federation, Indian government and its sports policy. No one of course accused IHF of corruption or nepotism, because people knew, who the IHF president was. The Indian Hockey Federation president was Naval Tata cousin of J.R.D. Tata, and father of Ratan Tata.

The then prime minister Pt. Nehru asked Naval Tata to investigate the failure and submit a report to him. Naval Tata did something better than that, he took total responsibility for the failure and resigned. No amount of coaxing and convincing succeeded in changing mind or decision. He was totally crest fallen and held himself totally responsible for the loss. He did not believe in the passing of the buck or starting the blame game. He knew the Indians failed in spite of the best efforts by the team members and the support team. Instead of firing the coach or the captain, he fired himself. Unfortunately, no one followed the precedent he set. 

Well no one followed the precedent sent by Lal Bahadur Shastry either, who resigned as Railway minister after just one train accident.

That was the early golden period of honesty in independent India, when people took the responsibility and resigned even if it wasn’t direct failure, compared to later times, when people shook off the responsibility, and continued in spite of severe critism. As the time passed, the skin of the politicians grew thicker and thicker and their conscience thinner and thinner. No amount of criticism could penetrate their thick skin, and their conscience was too thin to be impacted by the criticism. 

Classic example is that, when India lost the war to China, Pt. Nehru the then prime minister did not resign, he found a convenient scapegoat in Krishna Menon, Krishna Menon was made to resign, and strangely, even the opposition did not insist on Pt. Nehru’s resignation’s, they settled for Krishna Menon’s resignation. 

It seems, even politics was a gentlemen game those days....……….

Well after the 1964 Olympics, India had to wait for 16  more years to get their next men’s field  hockey gold medal. It was at the Moscow Olympics in 1980 that India won its 7th gold medal defeating Spain in the finals. This Olympics were boycotted by the nations like USA, UK, Australia, Pakistan, Netherlands, and Germany. That was the last hockey gold medal India won in Field Hockey, after that, we were never in the medal list also. 

We did win the 1975 world cup. but that's a different story...

It would be almost 40 medal less years, when we go for the 2020 Olympics. 

We may never have a coach who is Indian down to his attire (dhoti), Since ages, we don't even have an Indian as a coach for the Indian Hockey team.
But, let us hope, we may win Olympic Hockey Medal some day in future.

Best of Luck to India and Indians.



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