World Series Hockey : Why It Matters?

World Series Hockey (or) WSH, as it is popularly called, is a league type hockey series organised by the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Nimbus Sports, in a country where hockey never got the respect it is supposed to get.  The series was supposed to revive the lost glory of the National Game of India. But it has a lot of hurdles to face.

World Series Hockey
World Series Hockey

The primary concern for this tournament was the fight between the country’s top governing bodies of the sport, The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Hockey India (HI). While the Government of India haven’t clearly stated which of these two will control the future of the game in the nation, the International body for governance of the game, FIH, has clearly mentioned Hockey India as India’s sole controller of Hockey. There arises the problem. Since the tournament is organised by IHF, it was approved neither by Hockey India nor by the FIH. This brings us in relation with the most infamous sporting controversy in the country, the short-lived Indian Cricket League (ICL).

After India’s early exit in the 2007 Cricket World Cup, Zee television network announced of organizing a private Twenty 20 league cricket tournament, almost similar to the WSH. The tournament as expected was not approved by the country’s top cricketing body, the BCCI and virtually by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The players were threatened that if they took part in the league, they will not be picked for the International games. Despite the threatening, it had the likes of many top cricketers of the world such as India’s world cup winning captain Kapil Dev (who also acted as the Chief mentor for the tournament), Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-haq and West Indies’ Brain Lara, to name a few.

Kapil Dev at ICL
Kapil Dev, Chairman of ICL

The league, in fact took off, with its first edition, crowning the “Chennai Super Stars” as champions, was a partial hit. This forced BCCI to announce its own “Indian Premier League” (IPL). The cash-rich BCCI hit the right chords with IPL to make it a multi-billion dollar tournament.

WSH also shares most of the characters with ICL. The Pakistan and Indian Hockey Authorities already announced that the players of WSH will not be allowed to play for the national teams. Even FIH has issued notices citing that the players signed for WSH will be suspended from International matches. But the story of the World Series Hockey cannot be similar. Primarily because, Hockey doesn’t have the craze that cricket has in this nation. Second, Hockey India is not as rich as the BCCI. Even if HI or FIH comes with similar league, as BCCI did, it is difficult to get the sponsors.

The experiment was already done a few years back, when ESPN Star, in association with the Hockey federation started the Premier Hockey League (PHL), which was shut down after 2 seasons, for the lack of sponsors. These private leagues, will however serve for the betterment of Hockey in the country, if it was approved by the sports’ governing bodies. As it was proved time and again, that league based sports are the most attractive form to reach a wide audience.

One interesting difference between ICL and WSH cases are, the salary paid by the ICL and by BCCI are almost the same. So it was easy for players to pick nation over ICL. But the case of WSH is entirely different. Players of WSH are paid multiple times the amount they are getting for playing international games. So players with real talent from poor backgrounds might easily choose WSH over Hockey India. If that happens, it means India is losing its Hockey talent and we could never rise up again in this game.

Since Hockey India is designated as the official authority of Hockey in India, it need not fear about the rise of IHF. Instead, it should go on to recognize the WSH as an official domestic tournament for nothing else than the welfare of Hockey itself. This is the best tonic that could be given for the otherwise dying sport. Let sport be sport and leave the politics aside.