Hockey India (HI) president Narinder Batra is at it again.
This time, it’s Paul Van Ass—the latest incumbent in the chief coach’s hot seat.
Terry Walsh, the previous coach, was unceremoniously dumped by Sports Authority of India (SAI) following Batra’s allegations of financial impropriety.
His replacement, Van Ass, stepped in to prevent a dressing down of his players during the Hockey World League in Belgium following their quarter-final win against Malaysia.
This did not go down well with the HI chief.
The result—a sacked Van Ass.
Indian hockey loses yet another coach and Van Ass’ experiment with Total Hockey ends prematurely.
Indian Hockey is poorer from this rapid-fire chopping and changing of coaching personnel. The churn in support personnel is probably more than within the side itself.
Viren Rasquinha, former India player and CEO of Olympic Gold Quest, commented:
“It doesn’t matter whether the next coach is an Indian or foreigner. When we ask ourselves about our new coach, there are two things that we need to know. One, who are the people who can coach our team. And secondly, the most important question is that who will want to come here knowing that there is absolutely no job security.
How can we give a team in transition a chance to move forward when the coach keeps changing? A new coach brings his own ideas. He goes out, another idea comes in. We don’t need that.
We are now running out of options. There are not many people who are available. What we need to realise is that every new coach needs a certain amount of time to settle in. He will take a few months to know the system, the players and the situation that they find themselves in. Starting from scratch is a new coach’s biggest problem and it seems to be happening on a far too regular basis here.”
“The performances in Antwerp were bad. You look at the participating teams there and you wouldn’t be satisfied with a fourth place performance. We scraped through against France, beating Poland 3-0 was expected.
Pakistan didn’t play full strength and yet we drew 2-2. But what shocked everyone was the 15 goals we conceded in the next three games against Australia (2-6), Belgium (0-4) and Great Britain (1-5). I don’t remember the last time an Indian team conceded that many goals in three games.”
Terry Walsh reacted thus:
“I’m not surprised. This must be the next part of the puzzle.”
“I’m saddened by what I see and hear. I don’t know what transpired between them (Batra and Van Ass) but I believe HI is simply not in sync with what’s going on globally.
I’m not saying that Van Ass or myself are the best fit, but it’s incredibly important from the point of view of not just Indian hockey but world hockey, that HI give a better account of themselves and what they do and how they do it because whatever they are doing is inappropriate.
When I was India coach, I tried to establish a greater say for the High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans. I wasn’t asking anything for myself, but was only trying to get better protocol, where people who knew what they were doing were making the decisions rather than people who didn’t. But now it’s people, who don’t understand what’s required at the international level, who are making decisions again. This is a case of ego vs common sense.
I watched India play at the HWL in Belgium and felt very sad. They’ve lost quite a bit and I can’t blame them because they’ve been pushed through a series of cultural changes with so many coaches in and out. Brasa brought in European knowledge and tried to club it with the Asian style. After him, Nobbs spent a lot of time doing nothing. Then, I mixed the Australian and Asian style. Now, Van Ass brought in the European model again. Spare a thought for the lads who are forced to cope with all this. Consequently, Indian hockey is deteriorating with each passing month.”
India’s recent performances especially at the Asian Games where the team won gold and thus qualified directly for the 2016 Rio Olympics has Indian fans hoping that there will be a podium finish in the offing next year.
These hopes may be belied.
The gap between top international sides and the also-rans is yawning.
India is ranked ninth; Australia, Netherlands,Germany, Belgium and England are in the top five.
The results speak for themselves. Unless the men’s hockey team can beat the best of the best on a consistent basis and in tournament play and not bilateral series where coaches field experimental sides, dreams of a medal are just that.
Discontinuity in coaching personnel and playing styles can only worsen the prognosis.
The clash of egos off the field only foretell more misery for Team India on it.
What he said:
“I feel when there are such problems, all the stakeholders – be it Hockey India, Terry Walsh, sports ministry, SAI – you have to lock them up in a room, let them sit across the table and trash out all these issues.”
Former India hockey skipper and COO of Olympic Gold Quest, Viren Rasquinha, is hopeful that AussieTerry Walsh will return to coach the Indian side. Walsh resigned his post after his demands for a greater say in team decisions and the ability to pick his own support staff were turned down by Hockey India (HI) and Sports Authority of India (SAI).
The Indian hockey team has turned in stellar performances under Walsh’s guidance in the past year. The highlights are a Commonwealth Games silver, an Asiad gold ensuring direct qualification for Rio 2016 and a 3-1 series victory over Australia Down Under.
“I am hopeful that he comes back. If you look at the overall results, he has done a wonderful job. The players are playing much better hockey. Leave aside the results, but in terms of the quality of hockey, their play has been very good.”
“It’s just so sad. I’m tired of speaking about it. I feel when there are such problems, all the stakeholders – be it Hockey India, Terry Walsh, sports ministry, SAI – you have to lock them up in a room, let them sit across the table and trash out all these issues. We should finally see everything for the good of Indian hockey. Good things are happening in Indian hockey for the last eight months and we should try our best to make sure that it continues.”
What Rasquinha really meant:
“And if they can’t resolve them, we should just throw away the key to the room.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“And while they’re at it, can we have some tea, coffee and snacks for the gentlemen? Terry Walsh can video-conference in, if he feels like it.”