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Desh ke liye: an open letter to the Indian public from the Indian hockey team

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:15 IST

The Indian men's hockey team is in Belgium for the semifinal of the Hockey World League (HWL) at the moment. Don't care? Me either, it's a semifinal the way Maggi is food - that is, it's really not. It's a league format that's been called a semifinal - presumably to grab uninformed eyeballs.

But relax, this isn't about the Indian team's performance. No one cares. I know it, you know it, and, as it turns out, the Indian hockey team knows it. Or at least that's what their latest ad seems to indicate:

Sports ads are not meant to be depressing. They're meant to get your blood pumping. Usually it's a catchphrase on loop over a thumping EDM track while we're treated to glimpses of sporting triumph. This ad is none of that.

It's called 'Desh ke Liye'. One would ordinarily interpret that as a cliched appeal to our already overblown sense of national pride. But if the content is any indicator, it's actually an open letter from our hockey team to us. And it's bloody depressing.

It doesn't even pretend to be anything but. The ad opens with a shot of a near-deserted press conference. Even the 'reporters' in the ad have better things to do, as evidenced by one leaving to take a phone call within the first second. Indian hockey must be in a bad way when even the creators of an ad promoting it can't imagine sports reporters giving a damn about the sport.

Watching the hockey team reduced to self-pity should make us feel terrible. Sort of like seeing your father cry

The reporters, though, are meant to be us - the uncaring public. And it's a remarkably accurate depiction. As members of the Indian team exasperatedly list their achievements, the 'reporters' wear expressions of sheepish embarrassment. If this was the Indian cricket team we'd just be shown shots of our team lifting trophies. But if the same was done with Indian hockey we wouldn't have a clue what any of it meant. So this is how it has to be done. By methodically shaming us.

In case we were left in any doubt as to the objective of the ad, the team runs out of shits to give about halfway through when the Indian coach (most notable for having an unfortunate last name) calls out the Indian public for not knowing any of the team's achievements. The rest of the team follows suit soon after. Akashdeep and Gurbaj Singh lament the apathetic response of the country to their victories.

We're perennially bitching about our lack of sporting achievement. Maybe it's time to take responsibility for it

Having been raised on stories of Dhyan Chand and the exploits of Dhanraj, watching the hockey team reduced to self-pity and desperation should leave an Indian feeling terrible. It's sort of like seeing your father cry. There isn't a feel-good moment in the entire ad. When Sardar Singh eventually busts out the 'Desh ke liye' slogan, it doesn't sound as though they're doing it for us but despite us.

For a country that's perennially bitching about our lack of sporting achievements, maybe it's time to take responsibility for it. We ignore every sport outside of cricket and then wonder why we don't win a thing. Heck, as the hockey team just showed us, even winning isn't a solution. To put things in perspective - a full strength Indian cricket team just lost to Bangladesh. The hockey team finished second in their group and now take on Malaysia in the quarter-finals. Maybe tune in to that game - it's on July 1. The games are at roughly the same time as The Newshour and, god knows, they're a far better way to spend your time.

First published: 30 June 2015, 12:19 IST
Ranjan Crasta @jah_crastafari

The Ranjan (Beardus Horribilis) is a largely land-dwelling herbivorous mammal. Originally from a far more tropical habitat, the Ranjan can now be found wandering the streets of Delhi complaining about the weather, looking for watering holes and foraging for affordable snacks. Mostly human, mostly happy and mostly harmless, the Ranjan is prone to mood swings when deprived of his morning coffee. Having recently migrated to the Catch offices, he now inhabits a shadowy corner and spends his time distracting people and producing video content to distract them further.