Rajpal Singh's accusations against Jose Brasa show the mindset of our players who instead of looking inwards, doing their own introspection about their skills are willing to take on an Olympic gold medal winning coach. If there is one player who has performed below expectations in the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, it was Rajpal.
For almost six years coaches have been telling Rajpal that he should curb his individual instincts and play for the team. Probably, Brasa saw that as a negative influence and wanted to give the captain's job to someone else. Or as Col Balbir, the national selector says in a newspaper report, Brasa wanted to give it to Arjun Halappa.
Let's not get into who should be the captain. In hockey, any member of the team can be captain. And that is exactly what is perplexing. Whether, it was Rajpal, Viren Rasquinha, Dilip Tirkey, Dhanraj Pillay, Ramandeep Singh, Shakeel Ahmed, Pargat Singh, they all stood for the match toss. A hockey captain is like a flag bearer at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games or the Olympics – it's simply an honour. It's the coach sitting outside on the bench or in the stands plugged into the assistant coach on the bench who runs the team. A hockey captain has no rights or can't even change the team while he is in the middle. Since the game is so completely dominated by tactics and strategies that change virtually every minute, a captain can at the best keep the motivation of the team up and be a team spokesperson.
Rajpal was no spokesperson. He took the captaincy a little too seriously. Not that he shouldn't as it's a massive honour to wear the arm band but every captain knows the job is restricted to the toss. One thing is for sure – Rajpal doesn't like Brasa and so can speak against him. Brasa may not like Rajpal but he won't speak against him. I think it boils down to ethics. A coach is no coach who goes public with the knowledge he has about players. An Indian hockey player is not a hockey player unless he airs his views about the coach.
Whoever is advising Rajpal is not doing a good job. There is a group that doesn't want Brasa simply because the results are improving and no one in this country especially in the hockey fraternity littered with Olympian egos would want a European come in and take India into the top four. Ric Charlesworth was driven out of the country by the same group of selectors who just couldn't digest the fact that he might turn fortunes around. Each of this selector has been a coach/manager at some point. Their results are in the public domain for everybody to see.
What is also surprising is the silence of assistant coach Harendra Singh. Actually, not surprising at all. Probably the longest serving assistant coach in Indian hockey history, he didn't waste any time in sending his resignation after the defeat against Malaysia in the semi-finals. Why wasn't the resignation sent when we lost to Australia 0-8 in the CWG final? Why didn't he resign when we were knocked out of the World Cup? Brasa says Harendra's was an emotional decision. I don't agree. Harendra has seen enough hockey and stood by and watched enough chief coaches getting sacked to make an emotional decision on resigning after the semi-final. But if you did resign then you shouldn't have been there on the bench in the match for the 3rd/4th place-off. Hockey for the last 20 years has been like a National School of Drama.
Rajpal says he suffered as captain of the national team. Yet, he wore the arm band tournament after tournament. When asked why didn't he speak up? His reply was, “I didn't want to destroy the team morale.” Is Rajpal saying that the team didn't know who was getting humiliated or respect in the team. Sometimes, hockey players live in a vacuum thinking that the media and the fans are stupid and don't see the manipulation going behind such ridiculous statements.
Ninety percent of this team stands by Jose Brasa. But the players are mature enough to realise that in the murky world of Indian hockey politics, you cannot praise the foreign coach and survive. At Monchengladbach during the 2006 World Cup, Tushar Khandekar and I were watching the Germans take on South Korea and during the game, he said, “The only way to save Indian hockey is to get a coach of the stature of Bernhard Peters, Charlesworth, Mauritz.”
Yesterday, in an interview he said, “I don't care who comes or goes. I have to perform on the field and that I do hundred percent.” You cannot blame Tushar. For he just wants to play for the nation.
And neither can you blame the selectors or for that matter the secretary of Hockey India, Narinder Batra. The selectors love the power play, virtually get a high when they have players touch their feet, pleading for a place in the national team. Poor Mr Narinder Batra doesn't know enough of hockey to even understand the difference between a Ric Charlesworth, Jose Brasa or a Rajinder Singh. So any coach who calls him up ten times a day and 'reports' to him is an obedient coach and needs to be rewarded with the designation of a national coach.
Rajpal's statement has taken Indian hockey back to the dark ages once again where skillful but illiterate, ignorant players have once again been used by the establishment to shoot the only 'soft' target in the national team – the foreign coach.
We can only look forward now. To qualify for the London 2012 Olympics and win the gold medal, clinch the Champions Trophy and once again become the world's number one team yet again. Please, I didn't say this – it's the new motor-mouth national coach who will state these facts in a press conference with a grinning bunch of selectors and Mr Batra sitting there.
But if by any chance, they have some sense, even an insects sense, they will renew Jose Brasa's contract, give a dressing down to Rajpal and tell the selectors not to play Godfather between the players and coach.