The furor over Paul Van Ass’ dismissal has barely died down and the debate shifts to whether Indian hockey would be better served by a home-grown coach.
It is evident that Van Ass may have been on Sports Authority of India(SAI)’s payroll but Hockey India satrap Narinder Batra’s writ runs large on the appointment or removal of key support personnel.
The above assumes significance in the context of Dhanraj Pillay’s telephonic conversation with the HI chief suggesting that it’s time to look at national talent in the recruitment of coaching staff.
Speaking to DNA India, Pillay said:
“I called Batra yesterday (Monday) after all this happened and told him that it was time they considered an Indian for the coach’s job.
Batra sounded very positive about the idea of an Indian coach. He told me that they will definitely think of an Indian coach now.”
Batra confirmed the news:
“Yes, he did call me and we had a chat about this. We will take all decisions after that meeting on July 24.”
A special committee meets on Friday to deliberate over Van Ass’ fate.
Narinder Batra, meanwhile, lost no time launching a scathing attack on the Dutchman.
Calling Van Ass “a liar”, Batra claimed that he had sought the erstwhile coach’s permission before speaking to the team.
“India’s match against Malaysia got over and the team had done the victory lap. The sponsors and organisers said ‘the team wants to meet you’ and I asked if I was suppose to go on the ground. They said yes and went down’. The first person I met was Paul and then I met the team. We had formed a circle and I asked the coach if I could speak to the players. Paul said yes and that was when I started speaking to them.
I was talking to them in Hindi. I spoke for about 45-50 seconds and told them that ‘your performance needs to be consistent. You had defeated Australia in Australia. You need to be more consistent as you guys are playing together for four years now. Nobody likes to lose, not even the sponsors. So you need to be winning more’.
My next sentence would have been that forget about all the previous matches and concentrate on the upcoming games and try to be in the final. But before I could finish, Paul intervened and said ‘I am the coach and you leave’. His tone was pretty rude.
Then I left, saying that ‘we will talk about this later, we need to talk about this, Paul’. After that India played two more matches, even the women’s team was playing, I watched those matches but Paul never had the time to come to me or ask for any time.”
It is a foregone conclusion that if Van Ass’ ouster is ratified, Indian hockey, in all probability, will have an Indian coach till the Rio Olympics.
From cricket to basketball to soccer, sports federations in India have opted to hire foreign coaches to fill the lacunae between what locals can offer and what internationals bring to the table.
That it also helps counter allegations of parochialism and regionalism dogging the appointment of local candidates is besides the point.
I am not going to argue the merits or demerits of either policy.
What Indian hockey does not need is a stop-gap measure wherein a candidate steps in and molds the side till the Olympics and is then either lionized or made the sacrificial lamb depending on the results achieved.
Continuity has to be the name of the game.
And it would help even further, if recognised coaches were introduced at all levels starting from the sub-juniors to the seniors so that players are grounded in the basics at the right age.
The seniors may grab the headlines and the glory but it’s the youngsters who are hockey’s future and they need to be told in no uncertain terms that they are not being handed step-motherly treatment until they are done weaning.