The recent performance of India in the semifinal round of Hockey World League did not live up to expectations. And deservedly, the team faced criticism for the shoddy show in the knock-out phase. Even beating Pakistan twice in a tournament did not help in erasing the humiliation suffered against Malaysia and Canada.
Former Junior India hockey coach Mukul Pandey called for an immediate postmortem and also suggested a serious build-up with the focus mainly on the 2018 World Cup and the Summer Olympic Games in 2020.
The 64-year-old expert in the same breath called for the appointment of an aggressive coach to give thrust to the fortunes of the team. The chief coach of the Maratha Warriors during the Professional Hockey League (now Hockey India League) had clear-cut plans to counter team’s inconsistency.
Following are the excerpts of the tête-à-tête Sportskeeda had with the former chief coach of Mumbai and Maharashtra teams.
It is considered, Roelant Oltmans has been the architect of India’s ascend to the sixth position in the world. Do you hold him responsible and accountable for the unconvincing show in London?
The Dutch coach gets a staggering amount as salary in comparison to what his Indian colleagues get. He is indeed accountable for whatever happens to Indian hockey. Moreover, he is also responsible in many ways as it is the tax payers’ money that fills his pocket every month. I agree that he is indeed partly responsible for India’s climb to sixth spot in the world ranking, but the actual ascend had begun when Michael Nobbs was the chief coach.
What India requires today is a more aggressive coach to realise the dream of a podium finish. Why not induct one of the Australians who were part of the Hockey India League?
Oltmans’ attitude and behaviour towards the media after the Canada debacle was unwelcome. What do you think?
After the debacle, the media was bound to ask Oltmans certain questions, not to his liking. Being a seasoned campaigner he should have kept calm and responded with clarity. Oltmans, today, is the biggest name in Indian hockey after Narinder Batra. He is in charge of not only coaching but the entire development programme, which according to me has made him feel invincible.
He did have attitude problems and I can sight an example. During the Junior World Cup he was seen on the bench giving instructions to the players and poor Harendra Singh was left stranded with no control. All the hard work of coaching was done by Harender and the limelight was hogged by Oltmans. That was not a pleasing sight.
What actually went wrong at the Hockey World League semifinals in London?
Nothing was satisfying to be precise. If the defence was haphazard, the forwards were a misfiring chaotic bunch. Some of the players like Satvir Singh, Chinglesana Singh, Talwinder Singh and the two goalkeepers (Akash Chikte and Vikas Dahiya) were substandard. Oltmans’ choice of playing Chinglesana in the middle too was questionable. I know this player from Manipur (my ward) is a sharp forward and I was surprised to see Oltmans using him in the half line.
He was a misfit there. We should always opt for specialised players for each position on the field. Pitching makeshift players is always a disaster. I must also mention that ball watching rather than the man is another weak point that needs to be addressed. Hope we see a concerted effort in the future tournaments.
The Asia Cup, the Hockey World League Finals followed by the Commonwealth Games 2018 are the next big events for Indian hockey. What according to you should be the focus?
The need of the hour is to target the 2018 World Cup and 2020 Olympics. The Asia Cup and HWL can be good testing grounds but not of much importance as we have already qualified for the World Cup as hosts. The Commonwealth Games can be a good dress rehearsal for the World Cup.
We are the Junior World Champions and so we have the squad ready for these events. They have to be trained accordingly and should be considered as the senior national team. Akashdeep Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Sreejesh P.R., Pradeep Mor can add experience and do the trick.
Another pool of players below the age group of 25 years can add to the strength. And to take control of the probables, I would suggest Harendra Singh. The Junior World Cup winning coach, having mentored and tutored most of the young players, will be the ideal man to take charge.
How can we counter the trend of inconsistency?
Yes, let’s first understand the reasons for inconsistency. Lack of focus, overconfidence, the attitude of players, the inability of the coach to motivate the players, players getting fatigued due to excessive training and players taking selection for granted can be attributed to the worrying inconsistency level in the team’s performance.
How can we counter the problem? My five important solutions are:
a). Have a pool of 40 odd players who should get an opportunity to represent the country by turns.
b). Monitor the progress of each and every player and evaluate them accordingly.
c). Do not send the same set of players for every outing. Change the entire team if required according to the importance of the events.
d). Let it be known to the players that they are being monitored and selection to the final 18 will be according to their performances and the parameters laid down. This will develop healthy competition amongst the players.
e). The coach must be impartial with a neutral outlook. A biased coach with selective favourites will only kill the unity of the team.
Do you think there is a healthy backup pool for the national teams?
I can see around 100 (seniors and juniors included) in the talent bank. More can be spotted and groomed with a proper system in place. The Hockey India Project must do enough to spread across the country and identify the best.
Will India look different with the return of Sreejesh and Rupinder?
Yes, Sreejesh and Rupinder will definitely make a difference. However the two alone can’t do wonders, it is the might of the team that brings success.
Will you be ready to join the national coaching panel if requested?
That’s indeed a dicey question. It’s the dream of every coach to be part of the national team. No, since I have taken a break since two years, I am not coaching any team for the past two years. Presently I am more into administration as the Executive Director of a Sports Education and Management company known as SPORTIFY. However, I can’t say what would be my reaction if an offer comes. Well as a professional coach I am always ready to offer my best service for the national team.