A look into the history of our national sport shows some standout achievements by our hockey players. One such sportsman is Vasudevan Baskaran, who captained the Indian team that won the gold medal in 1980 Summer Olympics.
Baskaran, who was conferred the Arjuna award and Padmashree, coached several Indian players and presently, lives with his family in Besant Nagar, Chennai.
Excerpts from his interview.
Q: What kindled your interest in sports?
A: Hockey was a popular sport in my school that supported a huge ground. So, the game was played everywhere and, moreover, my father is a national champion in pole vault. Most of them in my family were interested in sports and all four siblings of mine represented India for hockey.
Q: Why is the sport not being played much nowadays?
A: It is a myth that hockey is abandoned. There are many events being held throughout the year with hundreds of participants. The problem is that the sport is not being given enough promotion like others. That plays a major role in influencing public’s perception about popularity of the sport.
Q: Tell us about the 1980 Olympics.
A: What I like in Olympics is that the board gives a lot of respect to each and every player. It motivates us to win more medals for the country.
Q: How does the play differ from when you were a captain?
A: I captained the Indian team for four years and it gets very challenging as you have to prepare the players pre-game and take care of everything after the game. If you do not win a game, you are gone.
Q: Who do you like among your contemporaries and at present in hockey?
A: We had a great team in the 1970s. If I have to pick one, it must be Ajit Pal Singh. At present, Srijesh and Bhupinder Pal Singh are doing a good job.
Q: How did the game change over the years?
A: It changed a lot as it became more aggressive. And each player is not playing for more than three years.
Q: What was the role of the media during the time?
A: More or less, they were the best selectors as the top mediapersons used to stay with us for a month and watch us training in the camp. Every two days, they would release a list of best 16 players. We used to undergo a lot of pressure.
Q: Mostly hockey players are from Punjab and Haryana. Being a Tamil, how did you blend with them?
A: It was the most difficult task as it took me two years to communicate with my co-player. In the field of sports, it is very important to know a common language. If I stuck to my own language, I wouldn’t have played 287 matches and coached as many people.
Q: Do you still play hockey?
A: I play a lot of golf. Hockey is only during summer for four months starting from this month.
Q: Any tips for hockey enthusiasts?
A: You need to struggle really hard to represent India. And one advice for parents is that, believe in your kids.