Mar 24

Written by: Sundeep Misra
Monday, March 24, 2008 

The script of the Olympic Hockey Qualifiers (Chile) was written during the Champions Trophy in Kuala Lumpur. With England playing the Champions Trophy, India had the best opportunity to record the team on the pitch, dissect it, open up the weaknesses and show it to the national team. They chose to sit at home; playing mock matches conjured up by their national coach Joaquim Carvalho. None of the coaching staff – Carvalho, MP Singh, Parmeshwaran, MM Somaiyya or even Merwyn Fernandez – had the time to take a four hour flight and just concentrate on one team that they needed to beat.

That team – Great Britain – effortlessly beat them in the final of the Santiago Qualifiers and now flies to Beijing for the Olympics in August.

Arrogance has its own place in sport. It sits well with champions. You can probably believe that Olympic and World Champions Teun de Nooijer could be arrogant; German coach Bernhard Peters for winning two consecutive World Cups (2002 and 2006) and maybe even the soft-spoken Australian coach Barry Dancer.

I could never understand the arrogance of Joaquim Carvalho and MP Singh. Both these coaches had never won an Olympic or a World Cup medal; neither had any coaching qualifications to speak off. But both walked as if they owned the hockey world. To the lay-man, it was confidence. To the man who understood hockey, it was misplaced optimism.

I am not writing this because Joaquim has failed to take India to Beijing. Tickets on the flight to Beijing were never available to us, anyway. Any team that cannot use Ric Charlesworth and keeps him in Perth cannot qualify for the Olympics. In an interview given to Ten Sports, in Boom, taken by their producer, Hemant Buch, I had answered his question of whether India will go to Beijing or not with an emphatic ‘No’. I do believe that I am as patriotic as Joaquim and his entire coaching staff put together. But I had seen enough in Boom (Belgium) during the Champions Challenge to understand that tactically we were completely off the mark.

Yet you did feel that a few smart moves would result in goals. India did lead 4-0 in the first 19 minutes of their match against England in Boom. But by the end they slipped through 4-3 with England all over us in the last seven minutes.

For Joaquim and MP Singh, it was their personal angst against certain players that took priority. Gagan Ajit Singh walked off the team saying that he would never play for India. Sandeep Singh, strides ahead of Raghunath in the flick department, was made to feel like a novice. And then when Rajpal decided to skip the Chile tournament but was persuaded to play on, one knew that man management was a skill that Joaquim probably needed to go back to a B-school and earn it.

It’s unbelievable that Ric Charlesworth is sitting in Perth while India loses the battle in Santiago. If he had been taken with the team, Joaquim could have only gained. What would Ric steal from us? Our state-of-the-art hockey facilities? Our world class coaching centres? Our internationally renowned sub-junior programme or our brilliant KPS Gill inspired management skills?

MP Singh would now sneak into Delhi airport, blame and abuse the players and quietly go off to play golf. Joaquim Carvalho would give a few interviews to his strategically placed friends in the media and say, “it’s not the end. We can still bounce back for the Commonwealth and World Cup.”

Since their retirement, none of these coaches have watched international hockey except on television. But yet they were given the responsibility. India could have beaten Great Britain in the qualifiers and gone onto Beijing. But the equations in world hockey would have remained the same.

In a way, its better that we didn’t qualify for the Olympics; if we cannot beat Great Britain in Santiago, Beijing would have been another Olympic disaster.

To be honest, the Olympics were the biggest baggage we have carried for years. It’s over. The Indian hockey team would pick themselves up and, believe me, would be a different team in the 2010 Commonwealth and World Cups.


2 comment(s) so far...

Re: No flights to Beijing

The Europeans has an unfair huge advantage compared to us the South Asians mainly due to the fact that their grassroots are exposed to hockey on synthetic turf. We are going to be playing continously have to play the catchup game.
Someone sold us about twenty odd years ago to make the Europeans dominant.
Look at where our futures are playing hockey , it undeniably grass.
Let us lobby now for at least the Champions Trophy to be played on grass , this will asses the superiority currently enjoyed by holland and Germany.
Tennis at the highest level is played on many surfaces and why not hockey?

By on   Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Re: No flights to Beijing

i disagree. we should lobby for more astroturfs at home.

By bodhi on   Wednesday, May 28, 2008

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