The national sport of a country is either designated on the basis of the popularity of a game in that country, or on the basis of its historical connect from that country. Its national game status may also rise from the fact that the sport in question has a long standing rich legacy for that particular country. The most obvious reason for designating a sport as the national sport of the country is this obvious association of pride that it evokes in the hearts of the countrymen.
Field Hockey is considered as the national game of India. The game can either be played on a grass field or on the turf, a specially made mat-like material. India’s performance in Hockey at various international forums was phenomenal during 1920-1950’s period and that was probably why the sport became accepted as national sport in the country.
It is probably one of the most ancient games played in today’s time. The simplistic sport of guiding a ball with the help of a stick has been around even 1200 years before the start of the ancient Games of Olympia in Greece. There are numerous variations of this game played through ages by almost all major races in the world.
The earliest mention of the present day game dates back to 1527, when the Galway Statutes in Scotland prohibited the game of ‘hokie’- the hurling of little ball with the aid of sticks or staves. The current accepted version of the game of Field Hockey was developed by the British in the 19th century as a popular school game. The London Hockey association was established in the 1921 and the rules were consolidated. The International Hockey Federation was founded in 1924 taking the predominantly British game to the world.
The game was introduced in India by the British during the Raj. The first hockey club in India was established in Calcutta in 1855. The Bengal Hockey was the first hockey association in India and was founded in 1908. India competed in Olympics held in Amsterdam for the first time in 1928.
For long the game was played in two halves, 35 minutes each but the rules changed in 2014 when 4 halves of 15 minutes each were introduced. with a 2-minute break after every period. There are 11 players to a side among whom 10 are on the field and one is the goal-keeper. Each player has a hockey stick, 150-200 cm long slender shaft, ending in a flattened extension known as the blade. Maximum permitted weight of the hockey stick is 737 grams. The ball is small and made of hard plastic. The stick is flat on the playing side and is generally made of hickory or mulberry wood. The objective of the game is to hit, dribble and push the ball around the field and attempt to shoot it past the goalkeeper into the goal. The field players are not allowed to hold, kick or carry the ball. The game begins with a center pass and the sides are revered after the first half. In order to qualify as a goal, the scoring shot must be taken from within the striking circle. Two on field umpires officiate the match and monitor the play closely for any misconduct or rule-breaking.
The Indian Hockey Federation was established in 1925 and the Indian hockey took its first international trip to New Zealand where they played 21 matches, won 18, lost 1 and drew 2 among them. This trip marked the emergence of the legendary Dhyanchand.
Indian hockey team’s stellar performances in the Olympic Games became the focal point of national pride. In the first year of participation, in 1928, Indian Hockey team won Olympic gold medal for the country. Between 1928 and 1956, the Indian Hockey Team won six consecutive Olympic Gold Medals, won 24 consecutive matches scoring 178 goals while conceding only 7 in their half. The members of the Olympic team were Richard Allen, Dhyan Chand, Michael Gately, William Goodsir- Cullen, Leslie Hammond, Feroze Khan, Santosh Manglani, George Marthins, Rex Norris, Broome Pinninger, Michael Rocque, Frederick Seaman,Shaukat Ali, Jaipal Singh, Kher Singh Gill. This was termed as the golden era of Indian Hockey. India’s winning streak ended in the 1960 Rome Olympics when the team lost 0-1 to the Pakistan Hockey team in the finals.
The team again won gold medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and 1980 Moscow Olympics. There were sporadic bronze medal wins and several under achievement. Post 1980, Indian Hockey team’s performance in the Olympics has deteriorated and they have been unable to bring any medals back home. Indian Men’s Hockey team was the winner of the Hockey World Cup in 1975 held in Kualalampur, Malaysia. The Indian Women’s Hockey team won Gold medal in the 2002 Commonwealth Games held in Manchester, England.