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Times of India: Indian hockey team cant be used as chopping board: Rajinder Singh Jr (5/9/2018)
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Times of India: Indian hockey team can’t be used as chopping board: Rajinder Singh Jr

Pratyush Raj

CHANDIGARH: They say, “Change is constant,” but the notion can also boomerang and Indian hockey stands witness to it. Former Indian coach Rajinder Singh Jr would second it. According to him, the process is in bad taste and defies logic.

“It’s in bad taste. I’m not blaming the coaches. A coach must be given a stretch of at least three to four years to deliver. It is not going to help Indian hockey,” said the 58-year-old.

After an abysmal run in the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast, Australia, where both the men’s and women’s teams finished fourth, India swapped coaches.

Hockey India (HI) sacked Sjoerd Marijne as coach of the men’s team on Tuesday and named Harendra Singh as his replacement. Marjine was given back the responsibility of the women’s side. Harendra, who led the junior boys team to the World Cup title in 2016, had succeeded Marijne as the women’s team coach last October. Both have been given contracts till the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"I have nothing against Marijine or Harendra, but I don't understand this logic. You just can't have a new coach after one bad series,” he added.

Tough ask for Harendra

Though Singh welcomed the appointment of Harendra, he wondered whether he had enough time to fine-tune the squad for the tougher battles ahead.

“It’s a good move because he is in tune with the latest in Indian hockey and knows all the Indians players. But his only handicap is paucity of time. Will he be able to prepare the team for the Asian Games and other tournaments?” he asked.

India are set to take part in two major events this year- the Asian Games in Jakarta in August followed by the World Cup in Bhubaneswar in November-December.

According to Singh, Harendra as a coach, has the Junior World Cup to his credit and should have been put in charge of the men’s team immediately after the World Cup in Lucknow in 2016.

“The core group of junior boys moves up to the senior ranks. If look around, such is the trend everywhere. For example in Germany, they have always elevated the junior team's coach to the post of that of the men’s team. That would have been a step in the right direction and it would have given Harendra ample time to build on his strengths and make a formidable unit," he said.

No to foreign coaches

Singh is all for Indian coaches and feels they should be given freedom to select their squads. “I think the problem with foreign coaches is the language barrier. Cultural differences too create an impediment. We need coaches with local sensibilities to go places,” he said.

Mission Tokyo

Singh sounded realistic on India’s medal hopes at the Tokyo Olympics.

“The team should focus on becoming the Asian champions first. To be honest, an Olympic medal will be a surprise for me but the team should concentrate on tournaments like the Asia Cup and the World Cup,” he said. And the former Indian coach thinks a top five finish in the Olympics will be a morale booster for the current Indian side.

Time to resume HIL

The Dronacharya Award winner hopes that HI would restart the Hockey India League (HIL) soon because that would give Indian players an opportunity to rub shoulders with players from abroad. “It should continue or else, we will take two steps backward. The tournament must go on as it has more pros than cons," asserted a hopeful Singh.

The future of HIL looks jeopardised after only five seasons with the organisers postponing the next edition of the cash-rich tournament to 2019. However, Hockey India is confident of bringing it back.

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