Sacked, sacked and sacked again: The poor fate of Indian hockey

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Ashish Maggo

The last five years have seen five men sacked as the chief coach of the Indian hockey team.

Paul van Ass, who earlier this week claimed he had been sacked as coach after a bitter fallout with Hockey India president Narinder Batra, was the fifth such man executed by the press of a button.

Were all these men some sort of power-hungry apprentices out to overthrow Batra from his position? No, most of these men were told to get out because they didn’t respect Batra enough.

This reminds me of a recent incident where a Kerala top cop was showcaused just because he failed to salute the state’s home minister during a function. It later turned out that the poor cop didn’t realize the home minister had made an entry from the back door. The same cop had greeted this home minister with folded hands at a function recently.

In Van Ass’s case, during a recent India vs Malaysia game at the Hockey World League, the coach had humbly asked Batra to make his way out of the field and not interfere with his decision-making.

What was Batra doing in the field? Well, he was telling the players that they will lose their sponsors if they continue to play the same way. It was quite a motivating thing for the Hockey India president to say to the players. Van Ass objected and he was sacked.

The last coach, Terry Walsh was sacked because of allegations of ‘financial fraud’ during his earlier stint as USA field hockey coach. But what was strange during this sacking was how Batra managed to bring up the matter only after a personal ego tussle with Walsh over control issues.

So basically, Walsh was doing a good job but suddenly they found he had committed ‘financial fraud’.

“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…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 versus common sense,” Walsh said of the van Ass controversy recently.

In reality, while there is plenty of hoollahoo over hiring a foreign coach for the Indian hockey team, no people from outside want to take up the job.

Renowned Australian former player and coach Ric Charlesworth, who too had a brief, controversial stint at the helm of Indian hockey in 2007-08, recently said, “It (India’s hockey establishment) is conservative, it’s old school, people don’t like change.’’

Is it time then for an Indian coach to take charge of hockey?

“I called Batra after all this happened (the Van Ass controversy) and told him it was time they considered an Indian for the coach’s job,’’ former player Dhanraj Pillay recently told DNA.

“Even before HI appointed Van Ass, I had written a mail to Batra on the matter.’’

The fact, however, remains that Indian coaches have been tried and tested before and failed. And then, if we don’t let foreign coaches take charge and enjoy full independence, where is Indian hockey heading?

A side that got third place at the Hockey World League semis, was the first to qualify for the Olympics by beating Pakistan to win Asian Games 2014 gold and a side that beat Australia 3-1 in a Test series in their own backyard, SURELY DESERVES BETTER!

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