Ipoh: With one eye on the coaching software on his tablet and the other watching on-field action, it was business as usual for Harendra Singh – sitting in a corner at the Stadium Azlan Shah Stadium here.
A few months ago – December 2016 to be precise – Harendra and his chosen 18 became the apple of India’s eye when they won the FIH Junior World Cup in Lucknow, remaining unbeaten throughout the tournament.
But Harendra isn’t resting on those laurels. That’s not him. Always in the thick of action, the master tactician is already scouting for young talent. Jaspreet Singh Sahni caught up with this Junior World Cup Winning Team Coach in a a freewheeling chat.
“Yeh to kabhi rukega nahin (this will never stop). Hockey and I can’t stay away from each other”
On the pitch, as India played New Zealand in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, were six players who were part of Harendra’s ‘Mission 2016’ – the name he gave to junior world cup campaign when he was handed over the junior team’s reigns in 2014.
In fact, the Whatsapp group for that champion squad was titled ‘Mission 2016’. The name has obviously changed now.
“That group is still there, only that it has been renamed ‘World Cup Winners 2016’. The whole bunch is still in touch and recall those glorious moments, besides sharing jokes and discussing about the game,” the coach said.
Here in Ipoh, Harendra is on a coaching assignment as well – to conduct an FIH Level II coaching programme from April 2 to 6.
“It’s always good to interact with other coaches and learn, it enhances your knowledge and skill-set. As of now, after the junior world cup, I don’t have any assignment (from Hockey India), but I was keenly following the junior nationals as well as the under-17 Nehru Hockey Tournament. Chup chap ek kone mein baithta hoon aur notes banata hoon (I sit quietly in a corner and make notes),” Harendra, who is employed with Air India, said.
And not just that, Harendra stays in constant touch with the country’s top academies and keep tab on the talent that’s coming through.
“I am always discussing about the upcoming talent with coach Avtar Singh (of Surjit Hockey Academy in Jalandhar),” he added.
Of the 18 players part of the junior world cup, 10 were product of the Surjit Hockey Academy.
When it comes to exploring the family man in Harendra, he doesn’t actually mind a bit of time away from hockey.
“Life hasn’t changed after winning the world cup, but the routine has certainly changed. It was hockey full-time earlier; for now it’s between home and work. But this break has also allowed some moments with the family that always complained (about not getting my time),” he said with a smile.
As the chat grew longer, India firmed their grip on New Zealand and eventually won 3-0. Interestingly, the stars of the win were Harendra’s boys only – Harmanpreet flicked two goals and Mandeep Singh the other.
But he doesn’t like to interfere in senior tournaments, until asked for. He calls it professional ethics, and rightly so.
“It’s not good for me to talk to them or interfere (during a tournament). Roelant (Oltmans) is the best person to analyze and advise. The players and I need to maintain that professional ethic,” he concluded like a true professional.