Indian Hockey legend Leslie Claudius today supported former India cricket captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi's suggestion that cricket should be made the national sport.
Lamenting that hockey is all but dead especially after India failed to make the Olympics this time around, the three-time Olympic gold medalist, said: "Now-a-days, nobody plays hockey. If not for the seasonal tournaments, like Beighton Cup, we would not have got to see a hockey match. Hockey is particularly dead in Bengal.
"For example in Bengal, the top three clubs - Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammadan Sporting - have stopped playing hockey. Now, predominent sports are cricket and tennis... Which are getting priority."
Asked whether time has come to make cricket the national game, the 88-year-old legend told PTI: "Why not? Indian team is playing brilliant cricket. We have so much of fan following and we are producing fine players... It's high time that cricket is made the national game."
"Hockey in India is in a pitiful, sorrow state. There is no exposure, no care to nurture talent. No educational institution plays hockey. We will need a Herculean effort to revive Indian hockey. Moreover, I don't see any inclination... The anxiety from children has vanished," he lamented.
The Padma Shree awardee and Guinness Book of World Records holder for having won the maximum number of Olympic medals in field hockey, however said, "There is hope."
"Not all is lost.. We have talent. I have seen Ssome of the boys playing good hockey. There is talent to form a good side and be competitive ahead of 2010 Commonwealth Games. But we must be honest to ourselves. Right people are not in the right places. A lot of favouritism has been going on in India," he said.
Recently, Pataudi said the current cricket team led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the best that the country has produced in a long time and suggested it is time to make cricket the national game.
Giving example of 113-year-old Beighton Cup hockey tournament, Claudius said, "There is no enthusiam left in the game now. It's one of the oldest tournaments, but it's played on grass. We still not have an astroturf."
Dismayed to see the poor quality in the final which was jointly won by Punjab and Sind Bank and Punjab Police after they complained "poor light", Claudius who won Olympics golds in 1948 (London), 1952 (Helsiniki) and 1956 (Melbourne) and silver in 1960 (Rome), said: "What we see today was absolute rubbish... Pathetic. Not even a shadow of what we used to play. Erratic hockey, nothing scientific, nothing brilliant."
Claudius Favours Cricket as National Sport
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