Terry Walsh has a mission. He wants to see India back among the top six nations of the world. A top-eight finish at the World Cup would be a realistic way of assessing India’s hockey status but Walsh’s optimism of a better finish is infectious. The team has begun to believe the future promises a lot.
In Walsh’s opinion, India would do well to “imbibe” some of the Australian way.
“Australia has taken some of the best things from the Indian game and utilised it most effectively in the modern era. It is quick and furious and forever playing with pressure.
“I want India to take advantage of the interchange rule if you have to make use of the physiology. You look at the second league (‘A’ division) of the Indian national hockey championship where you see probably four or five interchanges in the game.
“There are 70 if you are watching Australia or Germany playing. Seventy in a match!” he exclaimed emphasising the astonishing difference.
The game, Walsh insists, is much faster with stress on power.
“The game has picked up, the power and speed is more intense from what it was in my era.
“We had to play cleverly, run hard cleverly. There was lot more cunning and cleverness in that era. That’s what I would like to see.
“You also have to decide now if you want to play for the purity of the game or play it for the media. It is certainly not cat-and-mouse but bang-crash.
“My favourite memory of hockey is India playing Pakistan, five vs. five. It doesn’t exist in today’s hockey.”
The recent rule changes have not impressed Walsh, who dominated the field as an incisive forward in the company of Ric Charlesworth.
“I was never in favour of changing the off-side rule. I don’t think that’s a good thing. But most people think otherwise. I think it has taken away the artistry.
“But now if you don’t change you get left behind. Hockey is desperately trying to find how it can keep pace.
“It is becoming too costly to run even in Australia. It is an incredibly fast sport with major skills. Hockey has to make its presence felt in the commercial world. Otherwise it will die.”
The Australian great would like the coaching system in India become professional. “The game has evolved to another level. The coaching structure in India is built around “this is how it is done, watch, now go and do it. It is wonderful if you got the best role model.
“Coaching is not just about technical issues. It is also about concepts of play. If the player is making mistakes, it is not his fault; it is the coach’s fault.
“The player is trying his best. You have to analyse what best you can do in the traditional way.”