Kolkata: While he has no regrets choosing hockey over the more lucrative cricket, England hockey star Ashley Jackson called for more tournaments like the Hockey India League (HIL) which help players like him to earn a decent living.
“I followed my heart and did not think about money. I wanted to do something which is fun and enjoyable, especially when it was an opportunity to represent the country. I love everything I have done so far and cherish to do a lot more in hockey,” said Jackson about choosing hockey over cricket.
Jackson, who played county cricket through the age-groups as a left-handed batsman for Kent, was selected for England under-21 hockey when 18, and went to the World Cup in 2005.
He made his debut for the senior English national hockey team in 2007.
The forward and a drag flick specialist who turns out for Ranchi Rhinos in the HIL, wants more such tournaments as it increases earnings for players like him from Europe where the game is more of an amateur sport.
“Had I not been playing in the league, then what I earn from playing for my national team won’t be enough for a living. So such leagues afford you money to earn a living and allow playing for the England team. So, it is good for players like us as well as for others,” said Jackson.
The Ranchi based Rhinos are in the city to play an exhibition match to commemorate the first death anniversary of legendary hockey player and Olympian Leslie Claudius.
Jackson said the lack of money in the game was preventing youngsters from taking up hockey in England.
“There are many players who opted for other jobs, including coaching, to earn their living because the game being an amateur sports back home it gets difficult with what you earn."
“This surely is leading to losing out on younger players, especially the intelligent ones who play hockey during their university days but after finishing studies they opt for successful jobs than preferring the game,” said Jackson.
Jackson though is determined to continue playing hockey.
“I am lucky enough to play as a professional hockey player and hope to continue as long as I can. I am happy doing what I am doing, living each day and not worry about the future,” he said.
Jackson also admitted that game has become too physical and fast for the spectators but as a player he enjoyed the pace.
“The game has changed drastically. You always have to be stronger, faster and quicker to keep pace with the game. But for spectators I feel it has become too fast. If there are not enough cameras to cover all the angles, it doesn’t come across very well and look terrible at times,” he said.
The two-time Olympian was also effusive in praising young Indian talents.
“When it comes to skill, Indians are phenomenal. I have seen Indian kids practicing and what they did was incredible. Compared to youngsters back home, what the Indian players do skillwise is phenomenal,” added Jackson.