Manager ban too light


For a sport often mocked for its complicated rules, hockey has evolved considerably. The laws have been simplified and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has embraced the use of technology. While tackling these complex issues, the FIH has ignored something basic: keeping a headcount during a match.

For an offense as serious as fielding 12 players for the last five minutes of the match between Punjab Warriors (the offending side) and Mumbai Magicians, the one-match suspension of Punjab's manager Jagbir Singh is hardly a rap on the knuckles. It is not the captain or the coach that have been banned, but the manager, whose absence will hardly be felt by the team. The man advantage translated into the final goal as Punjab won 4-2, making Mumbai coach Ric Charlesworth's assertion that the subsequent suspension was like 'slapping somebody with a wet tissue,' ring true. Would the punishment have been harsher if a similar incident occurred at an Olympic or World Cup game?

On the face of it, the problem could be with the rolling substitutions. There is no limit to the number of players who can be substituted at the same time and often, a group of five or six players waiting at the half line to enter the field. If the technical officials aren't too alert, a mistake could happen.

Every game has rules that are, sometimes, used by the players to their advantage. Some have identified those flaws and amended their rules -- the ICC abolished the concept of runners for an injured batsman recently. Sunday's incident might be one-off, but if the HIL is to be seen as a professional and competitive league, it will have to take a more serious look at these breaches.

Mihir is a senior correspondent based in Mumbai

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