Double Olympian Terry Walsh could be the new head coach for the Indian men’s hockey team by next week, if all things go according to plan. NDTV reports claim that the Australian is now almost certain to be appointed the new coach replacing country-mate Michael Nobbs, who stepped down earlier this year in July, on health grounds.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) will have to give its clearance to the decision from Hockey India, as it is SAI that pays out the salaries of all foreign coaches.
The only possible stumbling block that could prevent Walsh from being appointed is his high price-tag. If reports are to be believed, the Aussie is likely to command quite a high price and the delay in appointment is said to be due to continuing negotiations with SAI and Hockey India over his salary.
The Indian men’s team has been without a coach for some time now, with high-performance director Roelant Oltmans taking up the role on a temporary basis for the Asia Cup in Malaysia. India had a good outing there and finished runner-up to Korea, albeit by the narrowest of margins.
That result meant that India’s place at next year’s hockey World Cup is almost a certainty and the need of the hour for the team is the quick appointment of a coach to take over and start working with the squad at the earliest.
Speculation was rife that Dutchman Oltmans would be given permanent reigns as head coach after the impressive showing in Malaysia and positive feedback from both players and staff. However, the duality that would emerge in such a situation, where Oltmans would be high-performance director and head coach, has seemingly pushed Hockey India to have separate persons in charge of the two key positions.
Sources claim that a total of 6 foreign coaches were shortlisted for the position – three of them from Australia and two from the Netherlands. Walsh, amongst the six, seemingly was the man best cut out for the job.
Former Olympian Walsh, apart from having played hockey at the highest level, has a deep-rooted emotional connect with India with one of his grandfathers being Indian. In addition, he is said to possess a good amount of experience with regards to the Dutch approach to hockey and the pairing of Walsh and Oltmans, who also has coached the Dutch team, seems to have won favour with Hockey India.
“Roelant has some fixed ideas and they are typically Dutch. Walsh will suit him because he has worked with the Holland team and will be conversant with Roelant’s line of thinking,” said a well-placed source.
Walsh guided the Dutch men’s team to a silver medal finish at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. He also coached the Australian team for over 4 years between 1997 and 2000, leading them to the bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Walsh is recognised by the International Hockey federation (FIH) as a Master Coach.
The Aussie also served as an elite coaching consultant and software development manager for SportsTec, a Sydney-based firm dealing in sports training technology. He was also taken on board the US women’s team as a consultant for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Walsh, a striker, played 175 internationals for the Australian national team and retired after their World Cup victory of 1986 in London, where he bagged one of the two goals that the Aussies scored in the final against hosts Germany.
He is considered to be amongst Australia’s finest ever strikers in the sport and was the top goal-scorer at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Hence, with all that pedigree going for him, Walsh is not going to come cheap.
His predecessor, Michael Nobbs, was reportedly paid a monthly salary of $11000 (AUS) (approximately Rs 75 lakh) when he resigned. In Walsh’s case, his demands could be closer to $15,000 per month in addition to sufficient number of paid tickets to fly home.
SAI is reportedly already stretched in terms of financial payments and the depreciating rupee against the American dollar would make it an even more tricky situation.
A final decision on the matter is said to be expected sometime next week.