It was challenging to prepare for Olympics: Hockey umpires


Indian hockey umpires, Javed Shaikh and Raghuprasad RV, said on Friday that preparing for the Olympic Games in Tokyo had quite a few challenges, given that things were different this time around due to the pandemic.

The two veteran umpires with experience of over 100 international matches each are the only Indians selected by the international hockey federation (FIH) to officiate in the matches beginning July 24.

“We have both officiated at the Olympic Games in the past. I was there at Rio (in 2016) and everything was very smooth but this time it has obviously been very different due to the pandemic, and we have had to change our plans due to a series of lockdowns in our respective cities.

“In a normal scenario, we would have been on the hockey field going through our drills and fitness routine ahead of a big tournament, the pandemic has caused a few setbacks for us, but we had to find ways to deal with it and be prepared for the task,” said umpire Javed Shaikh, who is based in Mumbai.

Raghuprasad RV said, “The last time I officiated in an international match was more than a year ago. Due to the pandemic, there were no tournaments, and we were unable to travel for any outside assignments either in the last couple of months.”

“But this can’t be the reason for me to not officiate to my potential in Tokyo. We have to be on top of the job and deliver the right umpiring decisions. What helped during this time was Hockey India’s efforts to hold regular online sessions for hockey officials, where we would discuss match scenarios and watched videos from different tournaments. We also watched the recent European Championships and analysed how the teams’ structure has changed and new tactics they are using,” said Raghuprasad.

The duo also highlighted the importance of fitness with the game getting faster with the regulation time being reduced to four quarters of 15 minutes each.

“Hockey is really fast now. Players today are extremely quick which is why the FIH and Hockey India have their guidelines and set benchmarks in fitness. Umpires undergo frequent fitness tests, at least four times a year. Like players, we too have Yo-Yo and Dal Monte Sprint Test. We need to complete 2,200 metres in the Yo-Yo beep test and sprint 40 metres in under six seconds. So, in that sense, fitness is paramount for us umpires too,” said Raghuprasad, who has officiated in over 150 international matches.