The COVID-19 pandemic has denied them crucial game time but India’s Olympic-bound veteran hockey umpires Javed Shaikh and Raghuprasad RV are determined to deliver their best despite the “setbacks” of the past one year. Raghuprasad and Shaikh, who have the experience of presiding over 100 international matches each, are the only umpires chosen from India by the FIH to officiate at the Tokyo Olympics slated to open on July 23.Also Read - Neeraj Chopra Wins Gold: Twitterverse Shower Praise As Tokyo Olympic Medallist Reigns Supreme At Kuortane Games, See Tweets
“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,” Raghuprasad said on Hockey India’s podcast series ‘Hockey Te Charcha’. Also Read - Olympic Medallist Neeraj Chopra Clinches His First Gold of 2022 In Kuortane Games
“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,” he added. Also Read - Olympic Medallist Mirabai Chanu Misses Out On National Record Despite Clinching Gold At Khelo India Event, Watch Video
Shaikh, who is based out of Mumbai, emphasised on the challenges the duo faced in the run up to the Olympics.
“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 Shaikh.
The two officials’ preparations include watching videos of tournaments and analysing team structures and tactics. “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,” Raghuprasad said.
“We also watched the recent European Championships and analyzed how the teams’ structure has changed and new tactics they are using,” he explained. With the game getting faster with the regulation time being reduced to four quarters of 15 minutes each, the duo feels fitness is vital.
“Hockey is really fast now. Unlike previously, we have to be in front of the ball and players today are extremely quick which is why the FIH and Hockey India have their guidelines and set benchmarks in fitness,” Raghuprasad, who has officiated in over 150 international matches, said.
“Umpires undergo frequent fitness tests, at least 4 times in a year. Like players we too have Yo-Yo and Dal Monte Sprint Test. We need to complete 2200 mts in the Yo-Yo beep test and sprint 40 mts in under six seconds. So, in that sense fitness is paramount for us umpires too,” he added.