Went to see the India vs. Australia hockey match today. Or rather, was forcibly dragged by my father to keep him company. My protestations of ignorance (I, er, didn't know the name of a single Indian player-until today, that is) about the sport are met with a curt "I'll teach you." Appa, like many of his generation actually knows a thing or two about hockey-apparently people used to actively follow the sport then. And it also helps that he's from Palayamkottai which has a rich hockey playing tradition- or did in the 60's and 70's when he was growing up. (I went to school there too, but was 20 years too late to catch the hockey fever.) Apparently it was everyone's great ambition that a player from there should get get chosen to represent India in the Olympics. That never happened, unfortunately.
Anyway, back to the match. It's a chilly evening- er, as chilly as it gets here. I'm getting goose bumps. We walk in just as the teams are coming in. And by the time we find seats ("where the ball will never come" as Appa puts it) settle ourselves, Australia has already scored the first goal-within the first two minutes. Appa gives me a triumphant "What did I tell you" look. Things were going exactly as he'd predicted, and we both hope India doesn't lose 6-1 like he said they would. A gentleman behind is keeping us highly entertained with his lively commentary.
India is bungling as usual (cricket, hockey, the sport doesn't make a difference, does it?) They seem to hit the ball directly to an Aussie, or where there's nobody. And then the ball's taken by an Aussie who appears out of nowhere. The Aussie team-it functions like a well oiled machine. They seem to be here, there and everywhere-all at once. Whether to take a ball passed on by a fellow team-mate, or one an Indian is trying to pass on to his team-mate. There are three Aussies for every Indian trying to recieve/pass the ball. Alaways. How this is, I don't know.
And Australia's goal scoring- smooth, super quick and efficient. Blink and you'd miss. 4 goals in the first 20 minutes of the game- so you can imagine. India, on the other hand, would with difficulty reach their 'D' and enter it and the audience would be all agog-every one would be standing on their seats and craning their necks. And then all would come to nought. They'd miss as usual. Even penalty corners. And every time they miss, commentating (commenting?) gentleman, let's call him CG from now, has something to say. Go wear nighties, he says. Your mamma wants you, go, he says. So when they score in the 31st minute, it comes as a surprise. Goal by Tushar Khandekar. But yay! At least it won't be 4-0. Everyone's happy.
At half time we're regaled with songs from Vasool Raja MBBS. Instead of girls in tiny clothes carrying pompoms and saying 'Give me an I, Give me an A...' (It happened at the Chennai open, I swear). CG vanishes and doesn't appear even after play resumes, and I'm upset that I'll be deprived of my auditory entertainment (visual being the Indians' on-field clumsiness). But my fears are unfounded, CG returns clutching a packet of chips.
Second half is uneventful, with either team preventing the other from scoring. India ofcourse gets loud cheers for its efforts. But the Aussies are so good, the crowd can't help but applaud them. Viren Rasquinha gets injured and is carried off the field. We're treated to a display of callisthenics by the burly Aussie substitutes. One of them is a skinhead. There's something scary about them, that makes one recoil instantly. The Indians look benign and do not appear to possess substitutes. Match ends, Indian team makes a show of being disappointed, we leave. Appa is upset- "I've waited my whole life to see this, and India gets thrashed. 25 years, same story. Nothing unexpected. Atleast it wasn't 6-1", he says. Oh,well.
It must be mentioned here that the Aussies are taller, stronger, more muscular and more menacing than the poor puny Indians. I think the they wear sleeveless t-shirts to intimidate their opponents. The Aussies look like buffaloes, albeit white. The Indians look like, well, thayir saadam eating fellows. Except for the two surds. How can this be an even contest?And the bright yellow costume- no doubt to dazzle the eyes of the rival team. How can anyone possibly score a goal when something menacing and bright yellow is coming at them? It must be so distracting! Can't really blame the poor Indians, when the Aussies employ such underhand tactics. And apparently the Europeans have changed the rules to suit their game. How can we expect to win when the whole world is against us?