Why is Indian hockey ailing even now?
In the recent past, Indian Hockey has seen a resurgence. Mainly due to HIL and Roelant Oltmans. HIL brought the much-needed exposure to young talent, greatly enhanced the pool base and above all, the much-needed money. And Roelant brought Indian Hockey back through sheer dedication and hard work. He moulded the team into a fit, hardworking unit. The discipline and dedication is there for all to see. There is a hunger to win that did not exist before Roelant.
The 2018 HIL edition was scuttled due to the usual politics. In the absence of transparency, I'm labelling this as a political fiasco. And the best thing that happened to Indian hockey - Roelant Oltmans - was terminated for one failure.
A flimsy and sordid excuse for political expediency, once again. For someone who was selflessly leading Indian hockey into ascendancy, Roelant's dismissal is another black chapter in the annals of coaches dismissed on the whims and fancies of shadowy, corrupt and self-serving mandarins.
Then came the inevitable shuffle. An ineffective, under-performing and unknown women's coach - Sjoerd Marijne was handed the mantle to further the Men's future. In one of his first statements, he grandiosely proclaimed a "player driven approach" and claimed that he had a (non-existent?) "Blue Print" for Indian hockey.
The "player driven approach" most likely was a comment to hide behind in case his efforts failed; then it would be the players who failed. With regards to the "Blue Print", obviously we, the hockey-loving fans, the ones who fill the HI coffers and sustain hope, are not entitled to know what it is.
This lack of transparency and high-handed attitude of the administrators is the bane of Indian hockey. Then to show his vast hockey "acumen", Sjoerd made an inane comment - "Either improve intercepting skills or remain at No. 6."
No wonder the erstwhile greats and some sensible scribes said that Sjoerd's appointment defies logic. It truly does and is likely to take the men's program south once again. What else is new?
And Oh! If Sjoerd's appointment was not enough of a shock, Jude Felix was appointed as the Indian Colts coach. His failure was there for all to see when the best team at the Sultan Johor Cup 2017 on display...without doubt, the Indian team, struggled to secure bronze due to Jude's insipid, unimaginative and rudderless leadership. Jude simply does not inspire and I fear that a very talented junior team will also fade away under his soft style of coaching.
There is a silver lining though; that is Harendra being appointed as the women's coach. This is a huge boost for women's hockey in India. Harendra is one of the best in the business. Leave alone the team, he inspires the fans to believe in Indian hockey. I predict very good things for the women's team. Australia, watch out at the Commonwealth Games! You've been forewarned.
Indian hockey administrators need to be one hundred percent transparent, honest and work in the interest of Indian hockey, without personal interest and politics. Otherwise, the richest Hockey Federation ever - Hockey India, is destined to be relegated to 6th best. And that will not be from the lack of interception skills.