Former national coach talks on his India struggles and is still keen to help Indian hockey
Perth: Terry Walsh is chilling back home in South Perth, in stark contrast to his exit from Indian hockey in a month-long saga last November. Walsh resigned soon after India won gold in the 2014 Asian Games (September 19-October 4 in Incheon) — a feat they achieved after 16 long years — after his demands for extra time off and a pay hike thereafter did not go down too well with the Sports Authority of India and Hockey India.
Former India coach Terry Walsh at Royal Street. Pic/Ashwin Ferro
He is currently all set to coach a club side here, Wasps, which boasts of a host of Australia stars besides his two sons Cale (25) and Jayme (26). mid-day caught up with the world champion (1986), three-time Olympian and FIH Master Coach on Royal Street in East Perth and learnt that India, as a hockey destination, still attracts this 61-year-old.
On his ugly exit from Indian hockey:
It was weird. I was employed by Sports Authority of India (SAI) and worked for Hockey India (HI). So after, the Asian Games win I realised that I didn't need to stay in India throughout and especially when the team was not in a central training programme. So I asked SAI, after seeking HI's permission, to I be allowed to stay home for sometime through the year. I was also led to believe that I was entitled to a reimbursement for winning the Asian Games, which I asked for. Both SAI and HI were positive in their reaction. Then suddenly, this red herring was thrown in from USA that IO had some financial irregularities there, which is totally untrue. My financial background is a lot cleaner than the environment that I was in back in India. Then followed a series of meetings between SAI, HI, Roelant Oltmans (high performance director) and myself, some lasting for as long as six hours. I later realised that I was caught in the middle of a power struggle between SAI and HI and since I was the only expendable one, I had to go.
On the Indian hockey system:
I spent just over a year in India and learnt that I was required to work inside the system rather than question it. By questioning it, I made things difficult for myself as the system reacted in a very violent manner. I did not malign anyone, but some of the things that were said about me were disgraceful. But I still hold no negative feelings towards India or SAI or HI. I have the good of Indian hockey in my heart and believe I can still make a change in the grassroot system or in training coaches
On the Asian Games win:
It was euphoric. Indian hockey fans are highly emotional, unlike Australian fans. While that's fine, they are not practical. For them, the team must win at all costs, it doesn't matter even if it's just a league game and inconsequential in terms of reaching the knockout stage of a tournament. After the Asian Games win, the entire team was put on a pedestal. But personally, I don't think we played very well in Incheon. The level of competition there was low. We played a lot better in the Commonwealth Games (July 23–August 3 in Glasgow) where we finished with silver. At the Asiad we knew that the semis was a surety but at the CWG we had to play well to ensure we reached the semis.
On India's hockey potential:
India has so much hockey talent. If it is all unearthed and brought together you can have the world's best team. Akashdeep Singh and Manpreet Singh are the future of Indian hockey, under the able leadership of Sardar Singh of course. Manpreet, in particular, can go on to be one of the world's best players. I believe India can win a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics because the conditions in Rio are in their favour. The pitches there are not going to be very flat and other teams could face adversities in the conditions there. However, if that doesn't happen, then India will definitely win a medal at the 2020 Games. But for that, some developmental changes are required.
On his highlight as India coach:
That has to be our 3-1 series victory over Australia in their own backyard (November). The Aussies didn't have their best bunch, but they weren't far off. We coped well in that series and showed our ability to play in the latter stages of a tournament. We showed that we were physiologically not too far away from the world's best. It's a fallacy that Indian players lack in fitness when compared to the world's best.
On future plans:
I'm very keen to sit across the table and have a chat with HI president Narinder Batra. When I resigned, he insisted that I stay till the Champions Trophy (December 6-14 in Bhubaneswar) and even offered to fly my wife down for it. This showed that the good of Indian hockey is his priority. I don't want a role with the national team, I realise they have a new coach (Paul van Ass) and I wish him all the best. But I can assist Roelant, who is currently a one-man army. Paul can get in touch with me too and I'm only too happy to help him.