Dismissing the oft-cited problems in adjusting to astro-turf as the reason for Indian hockey’s decline, the legendary Balbir Singh Sr. said such an argument is merely an excuse to hide poor performances as the surface is beneficial for the country’s players.
Balbir said he does not share the widely-held belief that India and Pakistan lost ground in world hockey after initial domination due to the introduction of astroturf surfaces and change in rules.
“I don’t believe that the change in rules and playing on astroturf has given a disadvantage to India and Pakistan. It is just an excuse (for the poor performance in recent years). Rather it should be beneficial to sub-continental hockey,” Balbir said.
The 89-year-old said the changes have been effected for good of the game.
“During our time, controlling the ball was a problem as we played on gravel fields. It was really difficult. Now the ground is smooth and the ball comes automatically. It’s perfect conditions for ball control,” said Balbir who now divides his time between Vancouver, where his three sons are settled, and Chandigarh.
“Now the pace of the game is also fast because of less interruptions. The referee allows to continue play (under advantage rule) and so there is flow in the game. People want to see fast and continues play. So, it’s good for the game.
“It’s a fair game now. It’s good for Indian players and dribblers. The ball will come at the striking circle more often and if you have the talent you can dodge past two or three defenders and shoot at the goal. Dodging past opposition players inside the striking circle is the real dribble. Outside the striking circle anybody can do it and some do it for the gallery,” he said.