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Why HI should think beyond its internal committee (7/23/2015)
--K. Arumugam
Why Hockey India should think beyond its internal committee

LARGER PICTURE: Is Indian hockey so immaterial that a petty issue can be blown so much that it wrecks its path? This is the question that lurks in the mind of many. A fracas between HI president and chief coach is not uncommon. Therefore, it needs to be settled and forgotten, rather than complicating each passing day, and in the end both must go hand in hand in the sportsman spirit. After all, one is doing a honorary job and the other is a thorough professional. Whatever happened after the Malaysia match is not that serious. But it is now a national news, parties spar in public, national coach is almost gone. Is Indian hockey so small that even a petty incident such as this can mutate its soul? Our national game deserves better treatment.

CONCERN: While the global hockey needs administrators of calibre in Narinder Dhruv Batra, India at home needs the services of established coaches like Paul van Ass, who are in the news after the ‘firing’ of the latter by the former.

This is a catch-22 situation.

Recent developments in the realm of Indian hockey is not only stunning but also shameful. All those involved, HI president Narinder Dhruv Batra and coach Paul van Ass, have to do a lot of introspection, and have to dispel the perception that one is egoist and the other is casual or unprofessional.

undefined TRIGGER: Batra claims that he entered the field after the victory lap has been taken, and after taking permission from an official in the Organizing Committee to talk to the players. On his part, Paul van Ass has told a television channel that Batra spoke in Hindi, but it was ‘negative energy’.

“Players need encouragement not otherwise”, Paul van Ass

The incident has happened after India struggled to beat Malaysia in the quarterfinal at HWL semi final. “I insisted the importance of consistency and how lack of it affects the hockey development, nothing beyond, and what is wrong in that”, questions Batra.

“But once Paul told either ‘You Leave or I leave’, I left asking him to discuss later and meet”. THE STATUS: Details are academic.

What is important is that HI is getting negative publicity not only at home but across hockey world. His regime is now compared with KPS Gill’s (who sacked a dozen coaches in 14 years including once during the World Cup) which proven administrators like Batra would not like to, even doesn’t deserve to.

Indian hockey with its globally popular Hockey India League, which made almost a hundred hockey stars millionaire overnight, needs positive image.

Today India has acquired an image of financial hub of world hockey. It has happened in 5, 6 years time – Exactly in Batra’s period.

Star TV into hockey, HIL, sponsors like Hero are in things.

But at the same time there is a danger that it might dissipate and disappear if Indian hockey would not deliver on international forums, more so if HI gets an image of arrogance.

THE ISSUE: How can a professionally run National Federation like Hockey India justify sacking of national coaches four times in five years?

Whatever the argument such things are not acceptable; nor going to help Indian hockey either.

‘Patriotism’ was the card when Terry Walsh was made to quit. Any amount of explanation by HI did not go well with populace though bureaucrats stood by Batra’s argument then.

It is strongly felt that the services of HPD Roelant Oltmans should be professionally put in charge to diffuse the situation.

Even if one takes Paul van Ass’ assertion that he has been fired is correct, there remains a question.

PAUL ASS’ MALFEANCE: Paul has been asked to submit a report. A report for a tournament that took place before he was ‘fired’. As a true professional, Paul ought to have submitted it. Because it was part of the job he was assigned to for which he has been paid or will be paid.

Paul also simply cannot run away with a simple and single line ‘I am fired’.

He is obliged to submit a report which he can do even now. That can silence many critics like this writer.

POSERS TO PAUL: Paul says HPD has sent a mail ‘fired’ on 13th July. He has shared every view of him with media, both print and visual, now its time to show the mail to media. Will he do that? Then only one can find out how HPD can send such a mail, or was he asked to do orally and what authority he wields to take such a vital deicision. Ordinarily, it’s the duty of CEO of HI or SAI, the pay master.

This site is in possession of return air ticket sent to Paul in June itself (pic)

It was purchased by Sports Authority of India through its public sector agency Palmer and Lawries. But Paul has been telling media that he did not get return ticket.

Will he clarify his stand?

With whatever news in public domain, it somehow gives an impression that he too is displaying egoist tendencies, casual or unprofessional.

It doesn’t augur well for a professional coach such as Paul to say that he travelled in India in Indica (poor man’s car) while Bentley is waiting at his garage (Quote: Indian Express).

This is simply nonsense. Its matching ego with ego. Paul came to India not to prove his ego is as big as his employer’s if not bigger than that.

Such things happen because they speak to third parties.

Why do both the parties speak through media?

TEAM’S INTEREST: Interest of the Indian team is continuance of coach. Terry Walsh, before that Jose Brasa argued for their continuance. As a change, Paul gives an impression he is in a hurry to quit, and is mudding the waters.

Personalities differ: Paul need not be a Xerox of Terry or Jose. He may he his own but his action should give an impression that his first interest is team’s.

He has come to India to deliver against the backdrop of hugely successful career, and should not be seen to be shying away on some pretext.

Now that Batra has clarified that he has not asked him to quit, Paul need to be flexible and bend. Though the HPD’s mail remains a puzzle.

BATRA TANGLE: On his part, Batra has to prove the game is his first priority. When the chief coach asked to leave, he left. It is appreciated. He has to show the same nicety and magnanimity now.

Today everybody in India blames Batra for Gill like Kill-Coaches regime.

For the interest of Indian hockey, its Hockey India League, Batra has to find a way to clear the mess he is perceived to have created.

There is no harm in pick up a phone and discuss with Paul. Batra need not wait for his Committee to ask him to do so. Hardly anybody will buy it. Batra’s analysis of Good Manager to Bad Coach is belated wisdom, avoidable at that.

INTERNAL COMMITTEE: Indian intelligentia give a damn to Internal Committees of National Federations. They are mostly His Masters Voices. It is borne out of history.

More so if it consists of former players. Describing them beyond won’t be charitable.

The Committee is not going to ‘order’ Batra to bring back Paul.

Everybody knows this.

At least half of the Committee members consider themselves claimants to the coaching mantle!

FIGHT THE PERCEPTION: So, the issue before HI’s Batra is perception; and the task before him is how to change it. People wont buy that four foreign coaches are wrong while one administrator is right!

Resorting to something legally sustainable like Committee process, won’t change the perception.

Certainly Harbinder Singh Committee is not going to be compared with Supreme Court appointed Justice Mudgal Committee or Justice Lodha’s, which made Indian Premier League (cricket) into smithereens recently.

End of the day, people will say four coaches in five years.

Its therefore a lateral thinking and vertical decision is need of the hour.

Batra has to douse the fire he has lit.

OPTION: Option one is to continue Paul as chief coach.

Elevation of Oltmans as team coach is crisis management, demotion for him. Lesser job but higher pay! Backdoor diplomacy is the answer. Let Paul van come back.

India needs Separate High Performance Director for women and also for Domestic hockey. Paul can be a good option. The important thing is likes of Pauls should be within our system. This will send right message to the world. At the same time, Paul should not play prank, respect national association and its system. Nobody will do anything at the cost of country's self-respect.

And finally, Batra is considered the best thing that has happened to hockey after Naval Tata. But if he is not getting due acclaim, because of his uncanny knack of ferreting out controversies with regularity.

If he is a good administrator, for which there is no doubt, it should include handling national coaches in the best possible way too. It is not happening right now. Course correction is in order.

In the last, the HPD needs to step in, broker a patch up and speak up. It is his moral duty.

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