Everything had gone according to form in the first nine Olympic games after field hockey became an official Olympic sport in 1932: Either Pakistan or India won the gold medal.
But in 1972, the world was in for a shock. West Germany took the gold. Four years later, New Zealand's 11-man squad emerged at the top in Montreal.
The Indians, who suffered one of their worst defeats ever to Australia in 1976 (6-1) and finished sixth, were outraged - especially natives of the field hockey-rich Punjab region. They burned villages, looted and generally made their displeasure felt at their nation's complete fall from the pinnacle of the sport.
Prospects for India - which has won seven of the 11 Olympic field hockey gold medals - have not improved much since 1976. There are four nations expected to earn a trip to Moscow with better teams: Pakistan, Australia, Holland and West Germany.
The United States, as usual, has virtually no chance of reaching Moscow.
"India's political upheavals have hurt their national team," said John Greer, the president of the Field Hockey Association of America. "As the government changes, the Olympic committee there also changes. Different players are on the international team year-by-year, which ruins India's continuity. Experience and familiarity with teammates are the most important things in field hockey."
The rest of the world had been gradually closing in on India and Pakistan ('60 and '68 gold medals) in terms of stick-handling skill. Thus it became easier for the bigger players of Australia, West Germany, Canada and Great Britain to stay with the smaller-statured Indians and Pakistani once the gap in skill narrowed.
"A skillful big man is more effective than a skillful small one," Greer said.
However, Pakistan has not fallen as far as India. Its national team recently defeated Montreal silver medalist Australian in the final of an international tournament which included many of the elite in the sport: Holland, England, New Zealand, and India.
Argentina and West Germany complete the pool of top teams from which the three medal winners will emerge. Pakistan, Australia and Holland have the edge for the top honors.
Argentina probably will keep the U.S. slate nearly perfect: an American team has played in only one Olympics-1932, when the host U.S. received an automatic bid and won a bronze medal in the three-team competition.
Argentina is heavily favored to win still another gold in this summer's Pan American Games, from where the Olympic representatives of the Western Hemisphere will be picked. Canada, which beat New Zealand recently, should take the silver and the second berth from this hemisphere.