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Murugappa a big success


Murugappa Group Chairman A. Vellayan hands over a two-wheeler to ONGC captain and player of the tournament, Harpal Singh

The MCC-Murugappa all-India hockey tournament, which concluded at the MRK Stadium on Sunday, was an unqualified success. Spectators thronged the venue all days and the quality of action in the middle wasn’t bad either. The semifinals and the final were riveting. The absence of Air India and players on national duty wasn’t felt at all as Indian Railways and Punjab National Bank stepped up to the plate admirably.

The Madras Cricket Club and the Murugappa Group must be commended for putting up yet another impressive show. Hockey has become synonymous with notoriety in the country in recent times and tournament like the MCC-Murugappa is critical to highlight the positive aspects of the sport. Chennai fans have once again proved that the national game is alive in these parts of the country with their overwhelming support for the event. There is delightful chemistry between the fans and the city’s only all-India hockey tournament.

Even though Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh ended up on the losing side in the final, they had plenty of time for their admirers. The star duo posed for endless photographs long after the presentation ceremony was over.

“I enjoy playing in Chennai,” Thakur, who was declared forward of the tournament, said. Harpal Singh, captain of the victorious ONGC, said players don’t want to miss the Murugappa tournament. “Fans here know what good hockey is. I love this stadium,” the MVP of the 86th edition of the Murugappa tournament added.

ONGC’s 2-1 win over IOC in the final was a landmark result for the young side because they had never claimed an all-India title before. It was a win for youthful exuberance over IOC’s experience. IOC had come to Chennai fresh after winning the CM’s Cup in Bengaluru. But ONGC played to their strength to upset their experienced oil department rivals.

The only blot on an otherwise impeccable tournament was Sunil Ekka’s attack on umpire R.S. Suriya Prakash in the league. The Army player’s violent reaction to the Chennai official’s decision has put his career in jeopardy. Hockey India elections are due on Wednesday and the new office bearers have to look at ways to curb growing indiscipline in domestic tournaments. The time is right to start a campaign to educate young players on the need to respect officials.

In the absence of the senior national championship and the PHL, private tournaments are critical to unearth new talent. But nobody knows whether any selector watched the Murugappa tournament with intent. HI officials are more interested in fighting for the chair than selecting the best team for the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.

Harpal said his “excellent performances” in domestic tournaments have not been taken note of. “I don’t know what the selection criterion is. I haven’t even been called for a national camp in recent times. You can ask coaches of various teams about my consistency. I have no doubt that I’m one of the best fullbacks in the country now. I feel I’m at the top of my game. But there has been no recognition for my hard work and talent. It is frustrating,” he rued.