'KPS Gill seemed to possess a heart that did beat for players'

Friday, May 26, 2017

Ex-Indian Hockey Federation boss Gill (left) with Gagan Ajit SinghEx-Indian Hockey Federation boss Gill (left) with Gagan Ajit Singh

His methods were anything but orthodox. And, he thought little of abiding by the book or by conventional wisdom.

If he thought a certain path was right, nothing else mattered. Once he had made up his mind, it was only about the result, even if it was right only in his mind. And then, if any, sports administrators could quote Shakespeare or admonish reporters for writing a grammatically wrong sentence. KPS Gill, who passed away at the age of 82 yesterday, was one of a kind.

I don't know much about police officers, but I am sure they don't make sports administrators of that kind anymore. Never mind, if that is good or bad. Long before he came to hockey in 1994, he had quite a reputation - his methods were akin to "my-way-or-the-highway".

Many feel that hockey was in a mess by the time he left - or forced to, as some may opine - hockey in 2008, it was time for the only Olympic Games where India was not represented. His methods had reaped him, and the country, the rewards in Punjab. And, he felt those methods could achieve similar results in hockey.

Sadly, that happened only in a limited measure. Indians did win a few trophies, but hockey was in turmoil, too.

But to give the man his due, he had a lot of ideas. They may even have been ahead of their time. Even before IPL (as in cricket) became the flavor, he conceived of and implemented the Premier Hockey League, which ran from 2005 before it was disbanded in 2008. The PHL, as it was called, was the first of sporting leagues in India. It was a franchise-based competition. And he introduced innovations, too.

The PHL had matches with four sessions of 17.5 minutes; the penalty shoot-out and the time outs, some of which we now see in IPL and hockey, too. Off the hockey pitch, he could both be warm and ruthless and not averse to pulling rank or connections.

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