World Series Hockey - Some Points for Introspection

ith less than a month for the start of the inaugural World Series Hockey, here are some points for introspection and reflection.

League Timing

In the grand scheme of things, India's national hockey team qualifying for the Olympics is far more important than say a filmstar-owned team defeating an industrialist-owned team to win the World Series Hockey. Would it have killed the organisers to schedule World Series Hockey immediately after the February 2012 qualifiers?

India's coach Michael Nobbs said, "For a team to perform, you need all the players playing under the same style, and at the same venue. During the World Series Hockey, players will be playing under different coaches in different cities for nearly four weeks. Nearly 40 days of continuous hockey just ahead of the qualifiers would burn out the players. They are bound to change their style a bit; this will undo all the hard work done over the past few months to perfect a system."

India's goalkeeper Bharat Chhetri said, "This is an important year for us. We need to qualify for the Olympics. With World Series Hockey, no training is possible for 45 days, and it will take its toll on the players. Our fitness will definitely go down and we might lose out on the combination between the players as well."

Indian captain Rajpal Singh said, "The Olympic qualifiers are the most important thing for India at the moment. We are all gearing up to put our best effort, but with World Series Hockey taking place in December-January, it would be a big distraction for the players. Of course, practice would be hampered."

India drag flicker Divakar Ram said, "It's better to postpone World Series Hockey for a couple of months and organise it after the Olympic Qualifiers. Definitely the timing is not right. The Olympic is a huge event, which comes only once in 4 years. We failed to qualify last time, so this time we have to ensure that we get into the main event."

Veterans League

Would Dhanraj Pillai, who is 43 years of age, have a place in the present Indian national team? Would Viren Rasquinha, who retired from hockey 3 years ago, have a place in the present Indian national team? Would Brent Livermore, who last played for Australia in 2007, have a place in the present Australian national team?

The answer to all of the above is no. Though the above players are loved and respected by hockey fans, they are past their prime. The fact that they are playing in World Series Hockey gives the impression that this is a mix-and-match league of all types of players, some current, some over-the-hill and some veterans.

Lack of Talent

The top 5 men's hockey countries in the world, per the FIH rankings of November 1, 2011, are 1 - Australia, 2 - Germany, 3 - Netherlands, 4 - Spain and 5 - England. How many current national players from the top 5 countries in the world are playing in World Series Hockey? How many current national coaches from the top 5 countries in the world are participating in World Series Hockey?

World nos. 1 Australia is so dominant in hockey that in a 3-Nation tournament in 2011, Australia whipped India by 8 goals, and then inflicted the same punishment on Pakistan. Australia has 3 sets of teams that are good enough to be ranked in the top 5 in the world.

Where is the talent in World Series Hockey if the best hockey coach on this planet (Ric Charlesworth of Australia) and his pool of 33 national players (3 players per position) are not participating in the league?

The upcoming Champions Trophy in New Zealand will have more talent on display than World Series Hockey. On any given day, even the Euro Hockey League will have more talent on display than World Series Hockey.

The Bangladesh Analogy

In cricket, Bangladesh is 10th in world rankings. In hockey, India is 10th in world rankings.

Will a Bangladesh-based IPL, with a majority of players from Bangladesh, succeed in attracting cricket fans from around the world? If the answer is no, how will an India-based IPL-type hockey league attract global or even national hockey interest, if the majority of players from India, a country that has won absolutely no world-level tournament in the last 3 DECADES.

Nothing Official About It - FIH

FIH President Negre said, "I have very high reservations about players taking part in World Series Hockey. We have sanctioned and unsanctioned events. World Series Hockey is an event that is not sanctioned by us, and hence any player participating in it will be banned from international tournaments. As far as we are concerned, the Indian players participating in the event will not be allowed to take part in the Olympic qualifiers."

Nothing Official About It - Sports Authority of India

In a letter to Sports Ministry, Sports Authority of India Project Officer (TEAMS) stated, "After going through the opinions of Michael Nobbs, national coach, and David Jones, exercise physiologist, it is found that all the national hockey players attending the coaching camp under OPEX 2012 (Operation Olympics) have to practice and play together over the next two months for the purpose of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics, rather than playing in the World Series Hockey Tournament, where only the veteran class players will be participating. Accordingly, it is proposed that in order to concentrate on the preparation for the Olympic qualifiers as well as Olympics 2012, we may not send the players who are undergoing coaching camp under OPEX 2012 for playing in World Series Hockey."

Closed League

World Series Hockey is a closed league with a cartel structure. One single entitity, Nimbus, has created the league, selected the franchise owners, and selected the player pool. Purely for marketing purposes, the team have co-opted names of cities, even though the players and coaches have nothing to do with the city. It is possible for a team to change owners, and possibly cities.

This is essentially a monopoloy, for no new teams can join such a league purely on the basis of sporting talent. League expansion is dictated not by the excellence of a new team, but the potential of a new market and the franchise fees that owners are prepared to shell out.

The league is about money, media, glamour and hockey, in that order. It is no wonder that the all-important Olympic Qualifier is not a factor at all for World Series Hockey. In the club vs. country debate, country always comes second for closed sporting leagues.

India Manage to Finish 4th in a 3-Nation Hockey Tournament

Photograph of Sardara Singh during India's tour of Australia (Hockey 9s)

double-leg 3-nation men's hockey tournament was held between India, Pakistan and Australia in multiple venues in Australia, from October 26 - November 3, 2011.

How good was the home team Australia? They defeated India 8-3 and beat Pakistan 8-2 in the tournament. These are the most goals conceded in a match, by either India or Pakistan, against any country.

How bad was the Indian team? India did not win even a single match in the double-leg, 3-nation tournament, losing even to Australia's 2nd team, which was called in to play India as a filler for the 3rd-4th placings match. India thus ended up 4th in a 3-nation tournament.

India's results in the double-leg 3-nation tournament are as follows:

Venue Stage Date Result Goal Scorers - India
Busselton 1st Leg Oct 26 Australia 8 - India 3 Danish Mujtaba (12, 66 m), both FG
S. V. Sunil (32 min), FG
    Oct 28 India 3 - Pakistan 3 Tushar Khandkar (4 min)
Rupinder Pal Singh (27 min)
Bunbury 2nd Leg Oct 31 Australia 5 - India 0  
    Nov 1 India 1 - Pakistan 1 Yuvraj Valmeeki (26 min)
Perth 3rd-4th Nov 3 Australia 2 - India 1 Sandeep Singh (4 min), PC

The Indian team comprised the following players: Rajpal Singh, Tushar Khandkar, Yuvraj Valmeeki, S. V. Sunil, Danish Mujtaba, Sandeep Singh, V. R. Raghunath, Rupinderpal Singh, Bharat Chhetri, P. R. Sreejesh, Sardara Singh, Sarvanjeet Singh, Gurbaj Singh, Baljeet Singh Chandi, Ignace Tirkey, Vikas Sharma, Arjun Halappa, Ravipal Singh

Coach: Michael Nobbs

Indian Women Lose 4-Test Hockey Series to an Australia 'A' Team

Photograph of India vs. Australia from the 2011 Tour (Hockey 9s)

4-test women's hockey series was played between a full-strength Indian team and a half-strength Australia team (Australia 'A') prior to the Lanco Super 9s tournament. India lost the series 1-2, with the following match results:

Venue Date Result Goal Scorers - India
Rockingham Oct 14 Australia 3 - India 2 Soundarya Yendala
Saba Anjum
  Oct 15 India 2 - Australia 1 Soundarya Yendala (PC)
Vandana Katariya (64 min), PC
Mandurah Oct 17 India 1 - Australia 1 ?
Rockingham Oct 18 Australia 5 - India 0  

The Indian team comprised the following players (partial list): Saba Anjum (captain), Soundarya Yendala, Vandana Katariya, Ritu Rani, Joydeep Kaur, Jaspreet Kaur, Asunta Lakra, Kirandeep Kaur,

Coach: C. R. Kumar, Manager: A. B. Subbaiah

Indian Oil Win 116th Coal India Beighton Cup Hockey Tournament

Player of the Beighton Cup Final - Baljeet Singh
(Photograph by Akhilesh Kumar)

he Coal India 116th Beighton Cup hockey tournament was held from October 25 to November 11, 2011 at the Sports Authority of India (Eastern Centre) artificial turf stadium in Salt Lake, Kolkata. 24 teams, comprising 12 local and 12 outstation teams, participated in the tournament.

The tournament was held on a three-tier basis - an initial Knockout Stage, followed by a Quarter-final League, and finally the Semi-finals/Final. Air India, Indian Oil, ONGC and Army XI were seeded directly into the quarterfinal league stage.

Indian Oil Corporation won the 116th Beighton Cup, with the following match results:

Stage Date Indian Oil Corporation Date ONGC
Quarter-final League Nov 5 beat Canara Bank 7-3 Nov 5 beat BSF (South Bengal) 7-0
  Nov 8 drew with ONGC 3-3 Nov 8 drew with Indian Oil Corporation 3-3
Semi-final Nov 10 beat Air India 1-0 Nov 10 beat Punjab National Bank 2-1
Final Nov 11 beat ONGC 2-0    

Goalkeepr Baljeet Singh of Indian Oil was adjudged the Player of the Final, and was awarded 10,000. Impressed with Baljeet's show, Bengal sports minister Madan Mitra also announced a cash award of 25,000 for the goalkeeper.

The winner took home 1.5 lakhs while the runner-up received 1 lakh. The Union Sports Minister, Ajay Maken, distributed the trophies. Maken announced that the government was willing to offer 5 lakhs every year to help in the running of the the Beighton Cup - the oldest hockey tournament in the world.

Air India Win 28th Indian Oil Servo Surjeet Hockey Tournament

Photograph courtesy Surjit Hockey Society

he 28th Surjeet Hockey tournament was held at the Olympian Surjit Stadium in Burlton Park, Jalandhar, from October 8 - 15, 2011.

The following 12 top domestic hockey teams participated in the tournament:

  • Mumbai: Air India, Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum
  • Delhi: Punjab National Bank, ONGC, Punjab & Sindh Bank
  • Jalandhar: Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (EME), Corps of Signals, Seema Suraksha Bal (BSF), Punjab Police
  • Rest of Punjab: Namdhari XI (Sirsa), Rail Coach Factory (Kapurthala)

The teams were divided into 4 pools of 3 teams each. The four semi-finalists were Indian Oil (Pool A), Namdhari XI (Pool B), Bharat Petroleum (Pool C) and Air India (Pool D).

Air India won the 28th Surjeet Hockey tournament, with the following match results:

Stage Date Air India Date Indian Oil Corporation
Pool Oct 11 beat Corps of Signals 3-2 Oct 10 beat Electrical & Mechanical Engineers 5-0
  Oct 13 beat Punjab & Sindh Bank 2-1 Oct 12 beat Punjab Police 4-1
Semi-final Oct 14 beat Namdhari XI 2-0 Oct 14 beat Bharat Petroleum 6-3
Final Oct 15 beat Indian Oil Corporation 4-2    

PTC Channel telecast both the semi-finals and final, while Akashvani Jalandhar broadcast running commentary of the final.

The winners were presented with cash prize of 2.5 lakhs, a trophy and 1 quintal of almonds, while the runners up were given 1.5 lakhs and a trophy.

Affan Yousuf of Indian Oil Corporation was selected as the Player of the Tournament.

Photograph of the Month

Photograph courtesy John O' Brien and East Grinstead Hockey Club

he Photograph of the Month for November 2011 is of England and Great Britain captain, Barry John Middleton. Barry has been a two-time Olympian (2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing), and won the gold in 2009 Eurohockey Nations Cup and silver in the 2010 Champions Trophy

The midfielder/forward made his debut in April 2003 against Belgium. He now plays for East Grinstead Hockey Club in England, having formerly played for Cannock and Doncaster.

Money Matters

Photograph courtesy FIH/East Grinstead Hockey Club

mirates Airlines has signed a 3-year sponsorship deal with East Grinstead Hockey Club of England. The club is located in West Sussex, around 14 km from Gatwick Airport, from where Emirates currently operates flights to a global network of over 100 destinations.

Founded in 1897, the present members of the East Grinstead Hockey Club include England and Great Britain captain Barry Middleton, two-time Olympian Mark Pearn, and 2009 FIH Young Player of the Year, Ashley Jackson. The club has amassed an impressive haul of titles, including the EHL Premier Division, European Indoor Trophy, and National Indoor League.

As part of the sponsorship agreement, the Emirates logo will be displayed on the shirts of the East Grinstead men's first team.

To launch the new sponsorship, Emirates invited 100 young hockey players from the local community to participate in an exclusive training session with the club players ahead of their match against Bowdon on Sunday, 6th November 2011.

Emirates has partnerships with International Rugby Board (IRB), Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and International Cricket Council (ICC), and is also the sponsor of the Arsenal Football Club of the English Premier League. The sponsorship of East Grinstead Hockey Club is Emirates' first ever partnership with any hockey team.

Media Matters

etween October to December of 2011, four different networks are/were showing live international men's hockey to viewers in the Indian subcontinent.

One is a elite tournament for the world's best 8 hockey nations - the Champions Trophy. India is not eligible for this event. This will be shown on Ten Sports in the Indian subcontinent.

The second is a Tier II tournament for nations ranked 9th through 16th in the world - the Champions Challenge. India will be participating in this event. This will also be shown on Ten Sports in the Indian subcontinent.

The third was an experimental tournament in a new format and new rules - Hockey 9s. This was held for both men and women, and was shown on ESPN and Star Sports (Indian subcontinent) and Fox Sports (Australia). Indian men finished last and Indian women finished second in the Hockey 9s.

The fourth tournament - World Series Hockey - is not for national teams. Rather, this is a club-level tournament where temporary teams are formed for 5 weeks in an year by mixing and matching players from multiple countries. On the positive side, players stand to benefit financially from this tournament, which is being telecast live on Neo Sports.


Tournament Venue Dates Television Networks
Lanco Super 9s Australia Oct 3 - Oct 12 ESPN, Star Sports, Fox Sports
Champions Challenge Johannesburg Nov 26 - Dec 4 Ten Sports
Champions Trophy Auckland Dec 3 - Dec 11 Ten Sports
World Series Hockey India Dec 17 - Jan 22 Neo Sports

With a healthy dose of live hockey on television in the last quarter of 2011, this is a good time to be a hockey fan in the Indian subcontinent.

Visitor of the Month

he November 2011 Visitor of the Month is Patricia Scharf from Australia, who wrote the following to

During the 1956 Melbourne Oylmpic Games, I was a volunteer driver with my own car, as was my fiance Ken Scharf.

We and other drivers drove the Indian hockey team to the country town of Moe in Victoria for a friendly match. I had a picture taken with Randhir Singh Gentle.

I am now 82 next week. Happy Memories from Patricia of an Olympics 55 years ago.

Fun With Numbers

Statistics by B. G. Joshi

he November 2011 edition of Fun with Numbers is on India's record in gold medal matches in world-level (Olympics, World Cup, Champions Trophy) and continental-level tournaments.

The Indian men's team has participated in 11 world-level and 19 continental level finals. India has an even record, winning 15 and losing 15 of the 30 major finals it has participated in. 11 of these 15 final losses came at the hands of one country - Pakistan.


Opponent Total Won Lost Titles Won Titles Lost
Pakistan 18 7 11 Olympics (1956, 64)
World Cup (1975)
Asian Games (1966)
Asia Cup (2003)
Afro-Asian Games (2003)
Asian Champions Trophy (2011)
Olympics (1960)
Asian Games (1958, 1962, 70, 74, 78, 82, 90)
Asia Cup (1982, 85, 89)
South Korea 4 2 2 Asian Games (1998)
Asia Cup (2007)
Asian Games (1994)
Asia Cup (1993)
Netherlands 3 2 1 Olympics (1928, 52) World Cup (1973)
Japan 1 1 0 Olympics (1932)  
Germany 1 1 0 Olympics (1936)  
Britain 1 1 0 Olympics (1948)  
Spain 1 1 0 Olympics (1980)  
Australia 1 0 1   Commonwealth Games (2010)
TOTAL 30 15 15    

The Indian women's team has participated in 0 world level and 7 continental level finals. India has won 4 and lost 3 of the 7 major finals it participated in.


Opponent Total Won Lost Titles Won Titles Lost
South Korea 2 1 1 Asian Games (1982) Asia Cup (1999)
England 1 1 - Commonwealth Games (2002)  
South Africa 1 1 - Afro-Asian Games (2003)  
Japan 1 1 - Asia Cup (2004)  
Australia 1 0 1   Commonwealth Games (2006)
China 1 0 1   Asia Cup (2009)
TOTAL 7 4 3