A combination of factors makes foreign coaches feel shackled

The catalogue of sacked hockey coaches is enlarging. While the advocacy from many sections continues to see the foreign coach as a panacea, the results are proving contrary.

Four coaches have endured uncomfortable tenures, each leaving a trail of unpleasantness, complaining of maltreatment by officials, bureaucracy and the players.

There is no surprise how the Michael Nobbs episode played out. The Aussie was under pressure to show results after India finished last in the London Olympics. The recent failure in the HWL in Rotterdam only hurried his exit.

Apart from a victory at the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy at Ordos (Mongolia), Nobbs’s record is anything but exemplary even granting the success in the Olympic qualifier against mediocre opposition.

Starting from the adventurist appointment of Gerhard Rach before the Athens Olympics, the saga of foreign coaches is a poor commentary the administration’s vision. Ric Charlesworth’s brief tenure and that of Spaniard Jose Brasa ended in failure. The latest in the procession is the hapless Aussie.

Showing the door to coaches for failures is no remedy. A combination of factors makes foreign coaches feel shackled from day one. There are too many command structures to confuse them. Constant scrutiny from former coaches/players, media and administrators inhibit them a good measure.

The failure has also been on account of the meagre talent available to them. Whatever the input, it is extremely difficult to mould a team that is basically mediocre, deficient in fundamentals and in poor physical shape to counter the energy, enterprise and efficiency of European outfits. India struggles to share points even with a country like Ireland.

The Nobbs era is behind us. It is time to look ahead. What course Hockey India is charting remains unclear.

The ball is in Roelant Oltmans’s court. The High Performance Coach will be the caretaker till the Asia Cup next month at Ipoh where India faces a must-win situation to seal a place to the World Cup 2014.

On credentials, the Dutchman is more than a substitute to Nobbs. But he must deal with the same situations and circumstances as Nobbs. He has no magic wand to transform everything. His stint in Pakistan was a flop compared to that of his colleague — Hans Jorritsma — who steered the team to win in the 1994 World Cup at Sydney.

No sustained effort

Hockey India cannot escape blame for the current impasse. There has been no sustained effort to enlarge the base. The dual administration and separate national tournaments have scattered talent and destroyed many. HI should seriously consider granting amnesty to players who figured in the PHL. Only this will bring more players to the national fold for the coaches/selectors to evaluate.

It would be naïve to assume that no differences existed between Nobbs and Oltmans on matters of coaching. Both were together for the last few months with the national teams.

One is tempted to recall the famous quote of the stalwart coach, Balkishen Singh who said: “Coaches are like watches, no two of them agree.” That probably rings true today.

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