After a fairly long gap, the think-tank is going to be Mumbai-centricThe basic format needs to be fine-tuned in certain layers
Chennai: The debate is on what Joaquim Carvalho will deliver. Amidst the unanimity that our hockey cannot plummet any lower, the chief coach claims to have bargained for and got everything he wanted, including a say in the selection and in picking up the supporting staff.
There cannot be a dispute over the choice of former Olympian and wing half, M.M. Somayya, or inside-forward, Merwyn Fernandes. Their inputs, as those from assistants M.P. Singh and Parameswaran, will definitely be invaluable. But one is also reminded of the aphorism about too many cooks.
After a fairly long gap, the think-tank is going to be Mumbai-centric. Carvalho, Sommayya and Merwyn all represent the ethos of that metropolis, which at one point time was the nerve centre of the sport in the country, as important as Punjab.
It is too early to assess and comment on the strategy or the system that Carvalho is expected to advocate. Anyway, there cannot be a drastic departure from what's in place. The basic format needs to be fine-tuned in certain layers. Carvalho admits he is aware of the frailties as much as anyone and will work on correcting them.
The first test
The test comes in early May when India may have to take on the likes of Australia, Korea, and China, that dented the side's image during the Asian Games at Doha.
The list of trainees for the Bangalore camp starting on April 2 is also subject to some discussion. Understandably, the omission of reputed mid-fielders Ignace Tirkey, Arjun Halappa and V.S. Vinay has raised a few eyebrows. The dropping of Viren Resquinha on the eve of the Asiad had also created a huge controversy.
Casting aside in one go the four, who share a wealth of experience and expertise, means a mandatory mid-field shuffle. While the return of Bimal Lakra is welcome, doubts of forming a strong intermediate line do arise.
Tirkey has been nursing an injury since the Commonwealth Games, but Halappa and Vinay have been hard working and consistent.
At least, in the case of Vinay, the age factor ought to have been taken into consideration. It is painful to see a player sidelined in his early twenties.
All those who figured prominently in the PHL like Gagan Ajit Singh, for instance are in with a chance. However the return of Sandeep Singh is heart-warming. There is hope that the tall and lissom star will pick up the threads in quick time and be the sheet anchor. With Raghunath shaping well, the drag flicker duo should cut a new and refreshing path.
Carvalho is pragmatic and says he is no magician. And, no one expects the chief coach to come up with a magical solution either. The fact that the system needs a revamp and fresh thinking goes without saying.
Carvalho will perforce be on the scanner from now on.