India : Ric Charlesworth sees revolutionary changes in Indian hockey
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Australian hockey legend Ric Charlesworth feels India’s below-par performance at the Asian Games was an aberration and despite the needless changing of coaches, the team has made significant gains in the last three-four years.

Charlesworth, a World Cup winner both as a player and coach, has been a vocal critic of Indian hockey, especially its governance.

Fed up with the system, he could last only 10 months as technical director of Indian hockey almost a decade ago.

The chopping and changing of coaches is still a frequent phenomenon and Charlesworth doesn’t like that but gave credit where it is due.

Three-four years ago, I was not so optimistic. Now, I see a revolutionary change in the way the players think about their game.

You have made two Champions Trophy final in the last two years and in the last one, India actually played better than Australia (before losing in shoot-out),” Charlesworth told PTI on Saturday.

The Hockey India League changed things. The fact that Indians players were playing with international players on a regular basis helped them a lot.

I remember when I was in India in 2008, Greg Chappell (then India cricket coach) said ‘if India get their act together, they will have five best cricket teams in the world’.

Likewise, you do have a lot of players in hockey and that change has started to occur,” said the 66-year-old, who has also played first-class cricket for Western Australia.

So, what has caught Charlesworth’s attention and what different are the players doing now compared to four years ago?

India’s story in hockey is really an interesting one. They dominated the game in the first half of the 20th century.

They were also innovators in the game. When we started playing in the 70s, we could not beat India or Pakistan.

That has changed over the last 30 years because they stopped learning and you better keep learning in whatever you are doing, else you don’t progress,” he said.

And now you see the progress. If you look all round the field, the players are now more confident of themselves.

They know their game and their rivals. They know they (players of other top teams) have two arms and legs like them and they are capable of beating them.

Mentally they have become tougher, so all of that adds up to make a more reliable and consistent team.”

But India still fail to do the basics right sometimes and allow teams to make a comeback in the dying minutes of the game, like they did against Malaysia in the Asian Games semifinal before losing the shoot-out.

People get nervous when they are leading. I wrote in my book ‘you never defend a lead you just score another goal’.

If you start thinking about the outcome, it happens. They need to learn that lesson. Keep doing what you are doing.

The loss against Malaysia was an example of that. But I think it was an aberration and I am sure the players know that,” said Charlesworth.

Since he feels India are finally on the right path, Charlesworth hopes there will be no changes in the support staff at least till the Tokyo Olympics.

Making too many changes is never a good idea. You only have to look at Terry Walsh and Roelant Oltmans (who both were sacked) and say they did a good job with the Indian team.

But In the end, you need a team of coaches and there Indians need to get involved. Harendra Singh in my opinion is a good coach,” he said.

Too many changes are unnecessary and there is no transparency over why it has happened (in Indian hockey).

I came here 10 years ago and said it is a 10-year project. You need consistency and reliability. Make appointment and stick with them.

They have not done that too. HIL not happening is also significant and disappointing because it has done a lot of good for Indian hockey,” said Charlesworth, who is open to return to coaching only after the schooling of his two kids.