In the news video shot by NNIS, Pargat Singh is responding to reporter’s questions. He looks tired. Take the television mikes away and he would gladly go home. He has taken the early morning Shatabdi from Chandigarh to New Delhi. Attended the Hockey India meeting. Seen through the thick bunch of applications for the post of Indian coach. And by the look on his face in the video, he is not terribly excited by the list of aspirants. It’s probably the same bunch of guys applying again.
Indian hockey is not in good health despite the silver at the Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the Asian Games. For a nation that carries the baggage of eight Olympic gold medals and a 1975 World Cup win, Indian hockey stumbles from Olympic to Olympic; World Cup to World Cup. Constantly hoping a miracle would make them champions again. At the 2006 World Cup in Monchengladbach, German coach Bernhard Peters said after beating India 3-2, “It’s a ten minute side. They play strongly in spurts. I would be surprised if they finish in the top eight.”
India finished 11th after beating South Africa in an 8am match. Miracles didn’t happen in Monchengladbach. They will not happen at the Champions Trophy and not even at the 2012 London Olympics (if we qualify). Unless, we get a coach, a system, a management that is willing to start from scratch and wait for a decade to once again see India back at the top.
Coming back to Pargat, if you listen carefully to what he tells the reporters – “our main problem is the defence. There have been too many lapses.” It’s clear that the former Indian captain and one of India’s best ever defenders is looking for a coach to build India’s defence line. Jose Brasa built the team making it into a fit side that could overlap, play in varied positions and fight for space in the midfield. Brasa even converted an attacking midfielder, Sardara Singh, into an efficient full back. But one swallow doesn’t make a summer. Sardara marshalled the back superbly but in a 70 minute game you need three Sardara’s to be able to hold off the opposition. Malaysia played on this aspect in the Asian Games semi-final. In the last ten minutes, two forwards on each flank ensured that Sardara was drawn away; creating space that was used to by the other Malaysian forward. Tactically, Malaysia knew Sardara’s sense of positional play was excellent.
Who would be the coach who can adopt a defensive posture and also ensure that the midfield attacks constantly to create the goals? Hockey India will not go for a Dutch coach even though Roelant Oltmans or Maurit Hendricks is available. A German coach is not available and the top ones anyway will not travel to the sub-continent. It leaves Australia or South Korea’s Kim Sang Ryul. Ric Charlesworth will not waste his time with the Indian federation again. But there is a distinct possibility that Barry Dancer or even a Colin Batch would have spoken to Pargat. Both are excellent coaches. Especially Barry Dancer.
In case, the big coaches from Australia refuse for some reason, Germany’s Paul Lissek, now living in Malaysia and a consultant with Hockey Australia might want to pick up the reins. Lissek has been an Indian hockey fan for long. And after being in Malaysia for more than a decade, coming and coaching in India shouldn’t be too much of an issue. His contract with Hockey Australia expires in June and he would be free after that. But if Hockey Australia let him go without finishing his contract, he would turn up sooner in New Delhi. Lissek pays a lot of attention to defence. Even though when he won the Olympic gold medal for Germany in 1992 as coach, the Germans were quite an attacking bunch. In the 1998 Commonwealth Games semi-final against India, Malaysia had Lissek as consultant. After keeping India at bay for almost 70 minutes, Malaysia scored in the last minute to escape with a 1-0 victory. India had more than 16 penetrations into the Malaysian striking circle but couldn’t manage to score.
Lissek would also be perfect since we are going to play the qualification for the 2012 London Olympics. The German prepares very well and is extremely meticulous. During the 1999 Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Lissek was watching the tournament when an Indian reporter asked him for three weaknesses of the Indian team. Lissek smiled and said, “That would be like giving you the blue print of the revival of Indian hockey.”
Maybe, it’s time to let him prepare the blue print.