Cedric D'Souza, two-time coach for the Indian hockey team in the World Cups (Sydney 1994, Kuala Lumpur 2002), will perform the role of a commentator for Ten Sports, the official broadcaster of the 2010 World Cup in Delhi. On the eve of the event, Cedric speaks his mind in this interview.
Spain's Jose Brasa is now the coach. Do you feel hiring a pro from Australia or Korea would have been more effective for India?
Please give Brasa a fair chance and time frame to prove himself. Every foreign coach, before he takes up an Indian assignment, knows that the dominant quality of the sub-continental teams is skill and will use his expertise and knowledge to ring in changes in fitness (mental and physical), tactics (defence and attack) and decision-making that will enhance the team's performance.
The players should be able to accept and adapt to changes. Quality players are required to make good these changes. More than the nationality of the coach, it is the way we deal with coaches that matters. The choice of coach must be that of a full-time professional with pro support staff and aids/equipment
Your own experience as Indian coach in 1994 and 2002 was a sweet/sour one. Looking back, what should you have done differently in KL?
To be honest all Indian coaches have one experience in the sub-continent. Nothing else changes, the coach is fired for poor performance. While it may be the easiest way out, this really does not add value to his sense of security as well as providing continuity within the team. In hindsight, I probably would have insisted on a written legal binding contract, instead of a verbal agreement, prior to taking on the national coach's assignment.
Media work, coupled with coaching assignments, has exposed you to rule changes in the game. What is the most striking change since 2006 World Cup?
The key issue is to avoid danger and allow free flow of the game whereby it is easy for the average viewer to figure out. The FIH has tried to follow this line and will continue to try and make hockey more viewer-friendly. The most significant changes are: 1. self pass, which speeds up the game and 2. the new restrictions in 23 metre area, which cater to the danger element in a crowded situation.
WC 2010 will see players allowed one referral per game, to reduce human errors in a fast-paced sport like hockey. Is any other technology that helps umpires in the offing?
The referral was a step in the right direction. The FIH will probably borrow from other team games and make changes to help the umpires, subject to the fact that it does not restrict the free flow of the game. I would like to state that the less congested the pitch, the more free flowing hockey will be, more goals as a logical conclusion.
More goals mean more involvement and more attraction to the spectator. Make it a nine-a-side game, for example. Another successful innovation was the PHL (Premier Hockey League) the 70-minute game was broken up into four quarters, maintaining a balance between flow and interval.
Does the FIH realise the need to push hockey into becoming a more TV-friendly sport?
Both the FIH and players are aware of the requirements from media and do their best to ensure the sport is properly projected. The players project the sport to future youth and as role models. Apart from skill and prowess, decorum, discipline and body language is constantly on view. In Europe, I have seen many internationals mingling with kids and teaching skills to tiny tots at camps especially during vacations.