India will not be low on confidence but on shoes when they take on Pakistan in the final of the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament.
Manjit Kullu, the left half back in the Indian team has been playing with warm-up shoes after the only pair of hockey turf shoes that he had split into two. Playing with warm-up shoes is akin to running on ice wearing normal shoes. It is a wonder that he hasn’t been injured while running as he is in constant danger of slipping and falling. Kullu plays in a sensitive position and is the player who needs to tackle the forwards and the opposition’s right-out; turning while tackling and speeding are the skills that come to the fore for a left back.
The other player without shoes is Harpreet Singh who doesn’t have turf shoes. The turf is slippery at Ordos and adds to the problems when players are without turf shoes. Kullu had only one pair and it is a wonder why these national team players cannot be given more than one pair when on tour.
Kullu has just made it to the Indian hockey team and it is difficult to afford shoes when a good pair costs around Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000.
Sources inside the team say that the pair given by the Sports Authority of India don’t last and ask why cannot SAI or Hockey India give them better Adidas or Asics shoes that most top teams wear to play hockey.
On an average, a player uses 3-4 pairs every year. If Kullu while tackling inside the Indian striking circle, slips and gives away the ball to a Pakistan forward and the Indian team loses, who takes the blame, Kullu, Hockey India, SAI or the warm-up shoes?
Irrespective of the result in the final, an Indian hockey player at least deserves a decent pair of shoes to play for India.