Former captain Sandeep Singh on Wednesday, 23 January slammed the frequent change of coaches in Indian hockey, asserting that there was none better for the job than the recently-removed Harendra Singh.
Harendra was sacked as India coach earlier this month following a disappointing 2018 and offered another stint with the junior squad. He became the sixth coach to be sacked in as many years.
“You can’t be changing coaches this frequently. The crucial Olympic qualifier (FIH Series Finals in June) is ahead of us and we should not be experimenting too much. I don’t think I have worked with a better coach than Harendra sir,” Sandeep said at the launch of Flickers Brothers hockey academy, his joint venture with brother Bikramjeet.
“There are a few coaches (in India) who can coach at the highest level and Harendra paaji is one of them. He should have been given more time. Any new coach takes about six months to adjust to the system and players also need time to understand his methods. The team doesn’t have that kind of time (ahead Olympic qualifiers),” he said.
India have had a variety of foreign coaches and Harendra helming the national team was a rarity in recent times. But he could not even last 12 months after taking charge, following the team’s medal-less showing at the Commonwealth Games in April.
Hockey India has invited fresh applications for the post and Sandeep, who was best known for his ferocious drag-flicks, feels an Indian coach will be most beneficial for the team.
“There is no language barrier and more importantly, you don’t hesitate while interacting with an Indian coach. Indian coaches are strict on the field but off the field they take very good care of you,” he explained.
The phenomenon of dropping players without giving them ample opportunities is another aspect that bogs down Indian coaches, said Sandeep.
“In 2007-08, India and Belgium played a series in Chennai and we beat them easily though I was not a part of that team. If you look at the Belgium side, which won the World Cup last month, it had most of the players that played against India 10 years ago, while India had only one or two. So continuity is important. Rupinder Pal Singh should have played the World Cup and Sardar Singh should have been allowed to retire post the World Cup,” said the 32-year-old.
The biggest worry for the national team, according to Sandeep, is lack of world-class goalkeepers.
“My biggest worry is when P R Sreejesh retires, who will replace him? I don’t see anyone matching up to his standards. We have to prepare goalkeepers. Strikers and drag-flickers keep coming but not goalkeepers. I hope he plays for another five to seven years.”
He concluded by saying that the head coach should be involved in selection matters as is the case with top foreign teams like the Netherlands and Germany