National coach Harendra Singh virtually conceded that the Indian hockey team was divided on the captaincy issue but assured that the episode would not affect the team’s performance in the World Cup starting here this month.
Rajpal Singh was retained skipper of the World Cup squad but majority of the players, besides chief coach Jose Brasa, favoured Prabhjot Singh for the job.
Harendra said the entire issue was now a “close chapter” and claimed there was no more division in the team.
“At this stage it (captaincy) is a closed chapter. If anyone has any problem, myself and Brasa will discuss the matter with the authorities concerned,” he told reporters.
Harendra said he had a chat with both Prabhjot and Rajpal on the issue and things were fine again.
“Yesterday, I talked to Prabhjot and Rajpal and tried to convince them. So far there is no division in the team. The boys played two practice games against local sides yesterday and today and the captaincy issue had no affect on them. I expect a very good result in the World Cup, considering the effort put in by the boys,” said Harendra.
Citing the example of Sachin Tendulkar, Harendra said the hockey players should take cue from the iconic cricketer who has no issues playing under a junior despite being arguably the greatest batsman in the world.
“In a democratic country like India, everybody is free to give his views and Prabhjot has aired his views, which is not wrong. Even Rajpal has expressed his feelings.
“But if a great cricketer like Sachin can play under (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni or someone else, captaincy should not be a problem,” the national coach said, adding “For me, all the 18 players of the team are captains,” Harendra said.
With three big events — World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games — lined up this year, Harendra was of the view that 2010 came as a blessing for the national game.
“2010 is a make-or-break year for Indian hockey. We have three important tournaments to bring past glory.
“But if we cannot achieve it, the players and the coaches should have the courage to stand up and accept that they are responsible for the setbacks,” he said.
India will open their campaign in the 12-team mega event against arch-rivals Pakistan on the opening day and Harendra said if the players can control their emotions on the turf, the home team would come out with flying colours.
“We lost to Pakistan in the Champions Challenge but we have worked on our flaws. Since Brasa joined, the team has improved a lot,” he said.
“But when these two countries play, they play with emotions. So we are teaching our boys to control their emotions. If they can do that goals will automatically come.
“We have prepared this team to play under any pressure. We have told the boys to play their natural game,” Harendra added.
The national coach said even though India are out of top 10 in world rankings, he was confident that they would make the last-four stage of the February 28-March 13 tournament.
“We will reach the semifinals. I have given it in writing to the Sports Authority of India. But having said that, the outcome of our first three group matches would be crucial,” Harendra said.