The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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World Cup, Kuala Lumpur, 2002, where Pakistan finished fifth


An evaluation of its success in major international hockey tournaments on both grass and artificial surfaces reveals that Pakistanís record is superior to that of India. Seven of Indiaís eight Olympic hockey gold medals came when the tournament was played on grass. Only in the 1980 Moscow Olympics did India achieve success on astro-turf. But the success was devalued by the fact that just six nations participated, while the powerful hockey-playing countries like Australia, erstwhile West Germany, the Netherlands and Pakistan boycotted the tournament. Indiaís solitary success in the World Cup was on grass, in Kuala Lumpur in 1975.

Since 1976, when playing on artificial surfaces was made compulsory by the international hockey federation, Pakistanís success rate has improved. They were world champions in Buenos Aires in 1978, in Sydney in 1994, Olympic champions in Los Angeles in 1984, winners of the Championís Trophy thrice, in 1978, 1980 and 1994, Asian Games gold medallists in 1978, 1982 and 1990, and Asia Cup winners in 1982, 1985 and 1989. Sardar Khan, a distinguished Karachi-based journalist and radio commentator, has excellently chronicled the history of Pakistan hockey.

Creditably, the book is not just a eulogy, or a chronicle of success. The opening chapters reveal that Pakistan hockey, like its Indian counterpart, is also rife with factionalism. Khan talks of how on the eve of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics the Pakistani players revolted against their then hockey federation secretary and team manager, Mudasser Asghar, and demanded his resignation. This revolt led to Pakistan finishing sixth, their worst-ever showing in the Olympics. Piqued at his writing, the rebels tried to kidnap Sardar Khan. The author also shows that inadequate marketing and negligence by the Pakistan Hockey Federation led to financial problems in 2000, when the cricket board had to bail it out with a loan of Rs 10 million.

Syed Akbar Ali Wahibi provides an in-depth statistical survey after each chapter. The records show that the four time Olympian (1948--60), Abdul Hamid, is Pakistanís top scorer in the Olympics with 16 goals. Inside forward Hanif Khan with 21 goals in the Championís Trophy, centre forwards Abdul Waheed with 25 goals in the Asian Games and Hasan Sardar with 26 goals in the Asia Cup are Pakistanís top scorers in these tournaments.

The chapter, ďStar Line-UpĒ, profiles 65 of Pakistanís acclaimed internationals. There is also a chapter on womenís hockey, and the author laments the international debut of the national womenís team as late as May 1983 owing to the conservative society of the country.

In ďHockey Familes in PakistanĒ, the author traces 37 families, whose members have become hockey internationals. The Dar family, for instance, had the unique distinction of having a member in each of Pakistanís triumphs in the Olympics. The book is informative, its style racy and the illustrations will appeal to readers outside Pakistan as well.

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