For decades Asians were the masters of the game of field hockey. From the 80s onwards with the change of rules and the introduction of artificial turf, the mastery skills of the game were overtaken by the sheer aspect of the predictable surface thereby allowing speed with hit & run tactics as the core ingredients of the game. Thereon the game evolved providing the "Caucasian" nations, whose players have the physique to have an added advantage, to take control of the game. Without doubt sports science, bio-medicine and information technology took the game to a different dimension.
All these were possible because the world body in hockey and the respective committees had and is being dominated by representatives from such nations and the shift in thinking has followed suit. Obviously the long term repercussions of such decisions are coming to fruition nearly 30 to 40 years later. This is something nobody could have easily foreseen except if the poorer countries mainly in Asia and Africa had properly understood the "economics" of moving to artificial turf, then they may have had extremely strong reservations from a financial standpoint, which itself may become the "nail" to seal the "coffin" for the demise of the game in the regions.
Well ! that is all in the past and it is a useless exercise to "cry over spilt milk". Therefore lets come straight to "present" time and it would seem that slowly Asian countries have departed from their mastery skills to adopt the styles of their counterparts from the "Caucasian" nations. Unfortunately these nations with time also allowed the game to evolve and of late adopted the skills of dribbling, a talent which probably 40 years ago was the domain of the Asians. As for the Asians while we adopted something "foreign" to us, we never evolved with it rather stagnated and sometimes are a good 4 to 8 years behind the modern hockey progression.
The other major hurdle that seems to be faced by Asian hockey nations is what i refer to as the "catch -up syndrome". The rules of hockey when changed, the first to adopt to these in its full force are the "Caucasian" nations. There is nothing wrong with it but the point being made here is that they are sufficiently represented and therefore have the numbers to sway the decisions. More importantly they have made it a mission to adopt the changes without hesitation as they have the resources. The Asian countries tend to "dilly dally" and usually do not have the resources to implement changes. They wait for their richer counterparts to go through the trial and tribulations of the changes and then adopt it. By which time these nations are far ahead and have distinct advantage while the Asian countries are behind with these changes. When they learn to master it, the rules change again thereby giving the richer nations another advantage. These effectively means Asia is always on the "catch-up" mode. Therefore how can Asian countries be on top of the "hockey pyramid"
We cannot blame the "Caucasian" nations as they are doing things the proper way. There is no "hanky panky" except it really shows a distinct trend that Asian hockey nations are basically "followers". They do not seem to have the right numbers nor a clarion voice. This in a way shows the weakness of Asian nations in their commitment to better themselves in the game.
The symptomatic decline in Asian hockey is seen in the events organised by Asian Hockey Federation (AHF). Events like;
1.Asian Champions Nations tournament in April 2010 was cancelled when Pakistan and South Korea pulled out in the 11th hour.
2. Asian Champions Club tournament in June 2010 saw only 3 national champion clubs represented. There were notable absences of teams from India, South Korea, Japan and China which are ranked in the top 15 in the world.
3. Asian Indoor tournament seem also to be poorly represented.
I could list a few more but it will only go to show the pathetic face of Asian hockey. Obviously people would like to point the fingers at AHF but the reality is the national affiliates themselves who are not doing their bit for hockey in their own country. I am not saying AHF is blameless but rather AHF is only as good if the national affiliates are supportive of it.
The "writing is on the wall" that the way hockey is heading in a few decades to come it maybe an "endangered game" in Asia and young kids may have to go to Sports Museum to know about the game. The World authorities in hockey has to take cognisance the shift in world economic centres with the potential of India and China including its mammoth population. If they do not do something for hockey in Asia, hockey may be missing a major size of the world's population for its TV rights and sponsorship. Football has seen it and so as cricket and F1 Racing. I hope world hockey get to grip of it and get Asia to move in the right direction by creating world champions through the process of establishing Development Centres like football and cricket has done culminating with accessibility to the fields and equipments. If not lets might as well start writing the "obituary" for hockey in Asia.