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Indian new coach Reid has what it takes (4/24/2019)
--Errol D’Cruz
Graham Reid takes on presumably his toughest challenge either as a player or coach as he knuckles down to coach India. The 55-year-old Australian becomes the fifth foreigner to coach India in seven years following Jose Brasa (Spain), Michael Nobbs and Terry Walsh (Australia), Paul van Ass and Roelant Oltmans (The Netherlands) – all of whom were axed.

He joined the National camp at the Sports Authority of India campus in Bengaluru on Saturday to fill in the void left by Harendra Singh who was sacked by Hockey India for what was perceived as a disappointing sixth place at the 2018 Odisha World Cup in Bhubaneswar in December. undefined

Reid guided the Kookaburras to the 2015 Hockey World League title in Raipur and in the process helped his country achieve the entire array of honours offered in international hockey.

But he also presided over Australia’s worst ever moment in four decades when the team failed to make the semifinals of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The failure to make the medal round of either the Olympics or the World Cup was the first instance in 40 years.

The last time that Australia failed to reach the medal round was at Munich 1972. The 55-year-old served his country with distinction as a midfielder or defender in 130 internationals that spanned two Olympic Games (1988 and 1992) and a World Cup (1990) during which he scored 36 goals.

Reid stepped down from the Australia job after the Olympics and joined the Netherlands as assistant coach. The Queensland-born wasn’t new to Dutch hockey, having made a similar move as a player in 1993 when he joined Amsterdam HC.

The Aussie doubled up as coach of HC Amsterdam where his tenure ended abruptly when his club management sacked him after a 2-8 pounding at the hands of HGC in the Dutch league. The club’s management suspected he lacked focus owing to distractions over his impending appointment as India coach and duly sacked Reid.

The Australian now braves the scrutiny of a skeptical Indian hockey fraternity and media and an ordeal by fire with the Olympic qualification process ahead starting with the FIH Series Finals in Bhubaneswar in June.

All said and done, Reid has what it takes.

As a player he was a member of the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS) hockey unit in its inaugural year in 1984. The AIS has been central to the Australia’s eminence in the sport which has yielded an Olympic gold (2004), three World Cup (1986, 2010 and 2014) and 15 Champions Trophy titles.

The Perth-based Reid took over the reins from compatriot and the legendary Ric Charlesworth who guided Australia to their third World Cup title at The Hague 2014.

It was a huge responsibility but he extended all he imbibed as an interim coach at the 2012 Champions Trophy in Melbourne where he guided the green-and-gold to a fifth successive title.

A few months before the Olympics, he steered the Aussies to yet another Champions Trophy title – their 14th of a record 15 titles – with a shootout win over India in the final.

It seemed to augur well for the Rio Olympics but Reid’s squad stumbled and fell out of the reckoning in the quarterfinals where the Dutch handed them a 4-0 defeat. Along the way, the Kookaburras also lost 0-1 to Spain and Belgium.

Reid has reportedly enjoyed a rapport with players, is a sound tactician and reads the game excellently. His coaching credentials, a chequered career notwithstanding, are sound. However, working with the Indian team calls for something extra – and not necessarily from the coaching manual.

After all, it is often quipped that Indian hockey needs a magician not a coach with 30, in about as many years, come and gone.

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