It might come as a surprise to a lot of people but Field Hockey is not the national sport of India. In fact, there is no such thing as the national sport of India. The notion is so deep seated and widespread that it is probably one of the most striking cases of mass delusion. That aside, the fact that the whole country believes hockey to be the sport most representative of the country and its culture makes it a strong contender for the non-existent post. On closer examination, however, hockey’s case is considerably weakened.


The most popular argument cited in hockey’s favour points to the unparalleled success that India has achieved in the sport. Eight Olympic golds are undoubtedly a great achievement but achievement itself is not a sound enough basis to confer the status of a national symbol to any sport. Success is not of a permanent nature and is thus useless as a yardstick for a permanent status. As it is, hockey has largely disappointed since the 1980s.


The other criteria put forward especially by cricket supporters is popularity. Cricket is undoubtedly the most popular sport in India. However, popularity is again not permanent. Cricket supporters forget that prior to India’s world cup triumph, Cricket wasn’t such a huge sport in India, which means that things could alter again. Thus popularity does not make a sport a national symbol.


It makes sense to argue that the national sport of the country should be accessible to most of the population. Games like kabaddi and kho kho immediately come to mind. Hockey loses out in this category. Even if one omits the requirement of a synthetic playing surface, hockey is comparatively expensive. Unlike cricket where one bat can be shared amongst a group of players, hockey requires one stick per player.


The most important criterion, then, has to be cultural relevance. A sport should be culturally relevant to the entire nation for it to be considered a national symbol. This is probably why India does not have a national sport. If kabaddi is culturally relevant in the north, the snake boat race is an unmistakable feature of south India. To find a sport which culturally appeals to the whole nation is practically impossible. The only sport that can bypass this difficulty is chess, as it meets most of the above requirements. Moreover, most historians believe that chess originated from India itself. 

Harsh Vardhan

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The Indian Hockey League found itself in the midst of a controversy due to its move of releasing the nine Hockey Players that had come from Pakistan, thereby denying them the opportunity to play in the Indian Hockey League 2013. Such a move has found its bedrock in the recent tension that has erupted on Indo Pak borders, due to yet another ceasefire violation by Pakistan, following mutilation of two Indian soldiers by the Pakistani soldiers.

Narinder Batra, the secretary General of Hockey India said,”All have approved this decision. The contract money for 2013 will be paid in full to the Pakistani players and HI stands are committed in guaranteeing the same.” The Secretary General also said that the franchisees that had the Pakistani players would be given time and opportunity to find replacements in their teams.

The Shiv sena had earlier threatened to vandalise the stadiums if the Pakistani players took to the stadiums and were allowed to play. However, the HI federation clearly maintains that their decision was not an impulsive reaction to the threats of an organization but a decision in which all top executive members sat down and discussed the intensity of the situation and the hurt sentiments of the nation.

This move of the HI federation has found both bouquets and brickbats. Aruna of Hindu college says, “Its absolutely the right thing to do. When Indian artists go to Pakistan, they are never treated with respect. Pakistan has no respect for India. Why should we be the meek cats always?”

However, Rishabh of Ramjas college says, “ Banning artists and sportspersons is not the solution. The problem exists because of a deep rooted hostility towards citizens of the other country. Such moves will only aggravate and perpetuate the hostility”.

The players who went back are: Fareed Ahmed, Imran Butt, Mahmood Rashid and Muhammad Tousiq (all Mumbai Magicians); Muhammad Rizwan Sr. and Muhammad Rizwan Jr. (Delhi Waveriders); Muhammad Irfan and Shafqat Rasool (Ranchi Rhinos); and Kashif.

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