GAME PLAN – Mohd. Shahid’s magic spell ends

Jaideep Ghosh

New Delhi: File photo of Hockey Olympian Mohammed Shahid who passed away at a hospital in Gurgaon on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: File photo of Hockey Olympian Mohammed Shahid who passed away at a hospital in Gurgaon on Wednesday, July 20, 2016.
Photo: PTI

For those who followed Indian hockey, with pride in the younger days and progressively with regret thereafter, one of the most enduring images was that of Mohammed Shahid in magical action.

Shahid was quite the sight. Clad in the washed-out blue India jersey, hair bouncing as he picked up tremendous speed, he would fly down the left flan, make a near-impossible 90-degree turn right at the touchline and then surge into the D with his extended stick keeping the ball away from the dumbstruck defence.

From there, where it seemed impossible, Shahid would essay a telling pass into the centre of the penalty area for one of his team-mates, pretty often Zafar Iqbal, to convert easily.

Shahid’s ability to make that narrow corridor between the touchline and the defenders his own was something we all looked forward to whenever India were in action. This is why we watched hockey.

It is pretty symptomatic then, that the downfall of the sport in India began when players like Shahid hung up their boots, a reverse we have never been able to recover from.

This is the legacy of Mohammed Shahid. It was indeed a sad day or the sort when Shahid finally lost his battle with ill health on Wednesday and passed away in a hospital in Gurgaon, aged 56.

Born in Varanasi in 1960, Shahid was first in the reckoning in the Junior World Cup in France in 1979. It was here that the top names in the sport noticed him and it was only natural that he made it to the senior side for the Moscow Olympics in 1980, the last time India won a medal at top level.

But unfortunately, Indian hockey had already begun losing steam by this time, and even at Moscow, the absence of the Western Bloc nations and consequently of teams like Pakistan made a huge difference.

This is something that was evident when Pakistan absolutely walked over India, with a 7-1 win in the 1982 Delhi Asian Games. India never really recovered from this reverse.

Nevertheless, an Olympic medal was around Shahid’s neck, in 1980 and his contribution was further acknowledged with the Arjuna Award in 1980-81.
He also captained India in 1985-86.

Sadly, the equations had begun to change in world hockey by then. The European teams and Australia were coming up, not just as on-field competition but also as the clout-holding decision makers in the International Hockey Federation (FIH).

Large-scale changes in rules left Indian, and Pakistani, hockey sidetracked as the sport became more physical and much more like football.

This was a change the sub-continent was never ever really able to adjust to and the dazzling skills of players like Shahid began to evaporate. As did success.

Shahid is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

FILE | New Delhi : Chairman of the Supreme Court Committee on Reforms in Cricket Justice (retd.) R M Lodha addressing a press conference after tabling the committee's report in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

FILE | New Delhi : Chairman of the Supreme Court Committee on Reforms in Cricket Justice (retd.) R M Lodha addressing a press conference after tabling the committee’s report in New Delhi.
Photo: PTI

BCCI cornered: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was left with little space to either fight or hid in, after the Hon. Supreme Court decided to accept most of the recommendations of the Justice Lodha Committee.

The committee, appointed by the Supreme Court, had made some recommendations which the BCCI had naturally challenged.

However, with the apex court choosing to accept the suggestions, much of the BCCI’s working would be affected.

For example, the one-state-one-vote recommendation was quite a blow for the office-bearers, many of whom thrived on the multitude of voters available in their zones to aid their cause.

Maharashtra, for example, boasts four full members, in the shape of the Mumbai Cricket Association, the Maharashtra Cricket Association, the Vidarbha Cricket Association and the Cricket Club of India.

Now, only one of those four would be able to vote, the others having to wait their turn in subsequent elections.

Another big decision is to include a representative of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) office in the BCCI.

Once the CAG official is on board, BCCI won’t be able to create any of the many committees which run the various commercial and other functions there.

Office-bearers can only be up to 70 years in age and cannot hold more than one position.

The Supreme Court also accepted that neither civil servants, nor ministers would be allowed to hold posts in BCCI.

The only thing that the Supreme Court did not rule on was on whether BCI can come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI).

The act, as it stands, cannot be enforced o BCCI, which is a registered society. The court, therefore, left it to Parliament to decide whether this can be changed.

As things stand, BCCI is in quite a corner now, since they have more or less run out of options.

One can always say, this was inevitable. After all, the board and its office-bearers haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory over the past few years.

They could have done well to accept some of the recommendations earlier. But their constant resistance has finally turned the tables completely, something that could see landmark changes in how cricket is administered in India hereafter.