Kolkata: Legendary Indian hockey player Leslie Claudius supported former India cricket captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi's suggestion that cricket should be made the national sport of India.
The three-time Olympic gold medailist said that Indian hockey is virtually dead after India failed to make the Olympics this time around, "Now-a-days, nobody plays hockey. If not for the seasonal tournaments, like Beighton Cup, we would not have got to see a hockey match. Hockey is particularly dead in Bengal.
"For example in Bengal, the top three clubs - Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammadan Sporting - have stopped playing hockey. Now, predominant sports are cricket and tennis... which are getting priority."
Asked whether time has come to make cricket the national game, the 88-year-old legend said: "Why not? Indian team is playing brilliant cricket. We have so much of fan following and we are producing fine players... It's high time that cricket is made the national game."
"Hockey in India is in a pitiful, sorrow state. There is no exposure, no care to nurture talent. No educational institution plays hockey. We will need a Herculean effort to revive Indian hockey. Moreover, I don't see any inclination... The anxiety from children has vanished," he lamented.
The Padma Shree awardee and Guinness Book of World Records holder for having won the maximum number of Olympic medals in field hockey, however said, "There is hope."
"Not all is lost.. We have talent. I have seen some of the boys playing good hockey. There is talent to form a good side and be competitive ahead of 2010 Commonwealth Games. But we must be honest to ourselves. Right people are not in the right places. A lot of favouritism has been going on in India," he said.
Recently, Pataudi said the current cricket team led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the best that the country has produced in a long time and suggested it is time to make cricket the national game.