Gill reveled in autocratic ways, making hockey his post retirement battlefield

Kirti Patil
Monday, 29 May 2017

KPS never considered himself retired making hockey a post retirement battlefield by continuing with his autocratic ways which nonetheless helped the sport and the players. But his ways always raised questions as even one shred of defiance could land a player out of favour.

PUNE: KPS Gill had become synonym of Indian hockey for a decade and more since the 90s, but when his time was up, the ‘supercop’ refused to relent and was made hockey his battlefield and always lived by his ways.

Those were the days when no one dared to question him. Governments changed at the Centre, but KPS remained an institution and his official bungalow on Talkatora Road a fortress of sorts.

KPS never considered himself retired making hockey a post retirement battlefield by continuing with his autocratic ways which nonetheless helped the sport and the players. But his ways always raised questions as even one shred of defiance could land a player out of favour.

Imagine he didn’t even spare the Bangkok Asian Games gold medal winning team. He sacked more than half the team including the captain Dhanraj Pillay and coach Cedric D’Souza, after receiving “intelligence inputs” from his men embedded in the Indian hockey team.

Still, KPS was someone who would entertain every hockey player who had something to talk to. If you were lucky, KPS would sort out every problem. His fortress was always open for those involved in hockey, but he liked his private time, which sometime would extend from early morning hours till late night—all depending on what kind of inputs he had received from his men.

He was India’s finest hockey administrator who brought in league-based competition much before Lalit Modi framed IPL for cricket.

The Premier Hockey League, a joint venture of the Indian Hockey Federation and the then ESPN-Star Sports was a clincher for hockey. Unfortunately, he failed to see the future and refused to change—always wanting to have a full control and the PHL died its natural death after a few seasons.

He ruled Indian hockey for 14 long years with iron hand, but when he was forced to exit the administration after “pay-of-selection” scandal KPS never accepted his fault.

The Indian Olympic Association suspended the hockey body and appointed an ad-hoc committee before Hockey India came into being. 

He had taken over the IHF in 1994 and since then Indian hockey began an upward surge. Years after winning a major gold medal, it was during his tenure that India won Asian Games gold medal, but a little loose talk in the bus carrying the victorious Indian team saw one of the shocking decision being taken.

Gill had no remorse, just as he was during his Operation Blue Star days that saw militancy rooted out of Punjab. Human rights activists and liberal politicians may not have liked the way he did things, but what he achieved was phenomenal.

Whether it was Dhanraj Pillay or Rajpal Singh, KPS always made sure he had personal equation with every Indian player. And, that is the reason despite getting on the wrong side of him, Pillay believes KPS was the finest man to administer hockey.

There were a few unwarranted episodes—of sexual misdemeanor to using iron fists on journalists who questioned his ways—but Kanwar Pal Singh Gill was a man on a mission wherever he was—fighting militancy in Punjab or administrating hockey post retirement.

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