A Hockey Tournament.
1. After having completed my staff assignment in a brigade somewhere in western sector of the Indian Army, I was posted to a Signal Regiment. Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) qualified officers with symbol of psc, especially in a Signal Regiment are rare in number and since I was of this variety, the Commanding Officer (CO) considered me as panacea for every difficult task. Incidentally DSSC course at Wellington ( India) is of one year duration which aims at making good staff officers at grade 2 ( Majors) level and is also a foundation for future progress in the Army.
2. The Regiment I was posted to was being commanded by a technically proficient officer who was short and stocky in looks and very miser by temperament. One could not get any Local Purchase bill sanctioned from him even for very genuine requirements in the unit. The unit had amassed a good amount as Regimental fund, but it was hardly spent even on essential requirements. Since the CO was more of technical bent of mind he did not encourage physical activities like sports and games and hardly attended these. Thus during the games period Officers, Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and Other Ranks went for road, walk or run rather than playing any games. There was hardly any game or competition which could be organised under such circumstances.
3. One day we received an order from Command HQs that our Regiment was tasked to select a Hockey team from amongst the other Signal Regiments of the Command including ours , train and field them for Corps of Signals inter Command Hockey Tournament being held at Goa. Command Chief Signal Officer (CSO) personally spoke to the CO and emphasised that we should very work hard in fielding a good team and win the competition. CO assured him that he would do so and detail his best officer for the task.
4. I was called to the CO’s office who briefed me on the subject and said ” Well Guchi, I have selected you to select, train and field a hockey team and since you are a psc officer ( as if staff duties training also includes training in sports), I expect that our team to win the tournament. Let me know if you require any logistics help”.
5. I straightway set about the task by writing to all units to send their best players to our location. Then I went to the sports store to check the availability of sports kit like hockey sticks, balls, shirts and shorts. To my horror, I found these items in very pathetic conditions like broken sticks, torn balls, old shorts loose from the waist with their elastic gone bad. So, I made a list of essential items with their cost and put up a Local Purchase request to the CO. During those good times in 1986 the total cost of these items was about Rs 5000.00 ( equivalent of 200 USD).
6. Sure enough, I got a call from the adjutant that CO wanted to speak to me. As I faced the CO, he was furious and said ” What do you think you are? You have put up a huge expenditure for fielding the team. You are a staff qualified officer and must carry out a detailed analysis before putting in such a request”. I briefed him about the condition of the sports stores and inescapable necessity of buying these items. He was perturbed and said, “Come with me to the sports store and I shall show you how to manage things with less cost.” I just followed him to the store. There he looked at the broken pieces of the hockey sticks and suggested that from these broken pieces let us cannibalize full hockey sticks. He advised that the Regimental carpenter would fix these up with fevicol ( a type of glue ) and we could further strengthen these sticks by wrapping adhesive bandages available free of cost in the unit Medical Inspection (MI) Room. As far as Shirts were concerned as per the CO, there was no need to wear these and the players should wear their own private vests. Let it be dyed blue by the Regimental tailor. Shorts which did not have a proper waist elastic could also be repaired . He advised to buy some elastic tape and let the unit tailor do the job. As against the demand of six hockey balls to practice, he sanctioned only two that too of an inferior quality. Thus my estimate of Rs 5000.00 was rounded off to Rs 100.00 ( about 4 USD then ) and sanctioned for training and fielding a hockey team for a prestigious competition.
6. As to the quality of the players, the other units had sent very mediocre guys to us since they could not afford to spare their good people for a long duration ( say about a month). Anyway we started forming a team and coaching them with whatever means were available . This hockey team so formed and kited was then sent to Goa for participation in the hockey tournament. The hockey tournament went on.
7. The result for our team was pathetic. They were beaten by 32-0 goals in the first knock out match and were out of the tournament. CSO gave his piece of mind to our CO on such an appalling performance. Now it was CO’s turn to have my ass.
8. He blurted,” You are a disgrace, I gave you all the logistics and see what have you done. I do not know how you cleared your DSSC examination. I shall screw you in your ACR ( Annual Confidential Report). Now buzz off and let me know why it happened.”
8. I called the senior of the hockey team which had just returned from Goa after being knocked out in the very first match. I asked. ” Ranjit, how the hell your team could suffer such an ignominious defeat, I can understand loosing by 4-5 goals considering that you were poorly kited but conceding 32 goals in a match spanning 60 minutes, nearly a goal in two minutes is just not understandable.” Ranjit explained, ” As the match started, we tried to stop or hit the ball with our sticks, the repaired and refurbished sticks broke one by one and we started conceding goals. Also, Sir, the shorts that we were wearing had been repaired by the unit tailor with cheap elastic and these started slipping off from the waist of some of our defenders. They were holding on to their shorts with one hand while holding the mended hockey sticks in the other hand. The choice was between saving the goal or saving their izzat ( respect) , so they let go the opponent to score the goals.”