National Hockey Camp Gets Flak After Six Players Test Positive For COVID-19

By Dhanu Delphi on August 11, 2020

India is still struggling to get the corona virus (COVID-19) under control and as a result there are no sports being played in India. However, the 5 month lockdown has taken its toll on athletes from all sporting backgrounds who have been unable to practice or train because training centers have also been in lockdown mode.

Indian cricketers did not take the risk and start practicing in India even though the 2020 IPL is schedule to commence in the UAE on Sep 19. The BCCI decided that it was safer for the players to arrive a few weeks early in the UAE and practice overseas than to resume training in India.

However, the Indian Hockey Federation decided that it was safe to organize a training camp for the Indian hockey team in Bangalore. They set up a training camp at the National Camp at SAI’s National Centre of Excellence and over 20 players flew down to resume training.

National Hockey Camp In Bangalore

The training camp did not get off to a good start as it only took a few days for players to start testing positive for COVID-19. As many as six players have already tested positive and one of them is Mandeep Singh, the captain of the Indian hockey team. The other players who have tested positive for COVID-19 include Varun Kumar, Krishan Pathak, Jaskaran Singh and Surender Kumar. Though Mandeep Singh has tested positive, he is asymptomatic.

Reports state that all six players are doing well and are being treated by an in-house doctor whose services have been provided by the state government as well as a doctor from the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

Only one out of the six players had fever while a few of them had mild symptoms that have been treated. The players have been given immunity boosters and other support medication to recover.

Ex-Players Criticise Hockey Camp

A number of ex-players have come out and criticized the national hockey camp after learning that six players had tested positive for COVID-19. The common criticism from these ex-players is that there was no urgency to hold the national hockey camp in Bangalore and put players at risk unnecessarily.

Zafar Iqbal who is a former Indian captain and one of the members who won Olympic Gold said that this situation should have been avoided. Iqbal said there was no need to have staged a training camp at this stage when the corona virus situation is still not under control.

He believes India could have taken a leaf out of Australia’s book who get their players to assemble two weeks before a major tournament can commence. The support staff and coaches give players a clear training regimen and program to follow when they are not in camp and it is up to each player to show disciple and follow those protocols.

Ashok Kumar who was part of the 1975 World Cup team shared a similar opinion as Iqbal saying that the players should have followed an individual training regimen at home. The only reason to call a national camp is to get the players to practice their combinations and this was only necessary when there was an important tournament around the corner.

The next tournament that the Indian hockey team will most likely play is the Asian Champions Trophy which is scheduled to take place in Dhaka, Bangladesh in November 2020. However, there is no guarantee that this tournament will take place due to the COVID-19 situation and could very well be cancelled.  The next international fixture after this is April 2021 in Argentina.

Since there are no immediate tournaments taking place, these ex-players feel that there was no need to push for the training camp in Bangalore.