Former IHF chief KPS Gill appointed 18 coaches from 1994 to 2008. Current Hockey India President already has five in as many years with Dutchman Paul van Ass being the latest casualty, writes Sundeep Misra
Narinder Batra is on course to break KPS Gill's record. Gill, the former President of the Indian Hockey Federation appointed 18 coaches from 1994 to 2008. Batra has been equally prolific — five since he came to power in 2010.
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HI President Narinder Batra. Pic/Getty Images
Paul van Ass is the latest casualty. India is fast becoming the world's biggest dumping ground for high-profile foreign coaches — Ric Charlesworth, Jose Brasa, Michael Nobbs, Terry Walsh and now Paul van Ass. It's not an accolade India will be proud of. Desperately seeking a path away from the rut it has consigned the sport to, Hockey India is now dangerously veering towards repeating the 12th position in Rio 2016. The team under Michael Nobbs finished 12th at the 2012 London Olympics.
After the shocking dismissal of Terry Walsh, days after he coached the team to gold at the 2014 Asian Games and an automatic spot in Rio, the appointment of Paul van Ass, a methodical, outspoken Dutch coach somehow kept the critics and cynics quiet. Paul had the credentials (he had taken the Dutch team to consecutive silver medals at the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup). Now five months later, after spending 126 days on the field with the national team, he has been sacked.
With just a year to go, it's nothing short of a catastrophe for Indian hockey. Mr Batra may justify his actions to whatever extent but any federation in the world would realise and understand the need for continuity in the coaches' position. "You really believe these guys (Hockey India) understand what is required for a team to win," says Rajinder Singh Senior, a former coach who took India to the 2003 Asia Cup title and a fourth place at the 2003 Champions Trophy.
KPS Gill. Pic/AFP
He was also the coach when India won the 2001 Junior World Cup. "For them, it's not the medal; it's their ego that needs to win." Rajinder was sacked barely months before the 2004 Athens Olympics. Indian coaches over the years have allowed federation presidents to walk in at the break and give their speeches to the team, their version of a pep-talk that usually had the opposite effect.
K Jothikumaran, the former secretary of the Indian Hockey Federation, had decided to give a tongue-lashing to the team during the break in the semi-finals of the 1998 Commonwealth Games against Malaysia. MK Kaushik, then coach, had to restrain India's star forward Dhanraj Pillay from walking up to Jothikumaran and asking him to leave the dugout.
Paul van Ass has been penalised for a similar walk-in which happened at the Hockey World League. Narinder Batra decided he was the super-coach. Paul, the chief coach, aghast at seeing Batra giving instructions, ordered him to leave.
At the moment, there is no coach in sight; unless, Batra decides to sign on a second-rate foreign coach. He still has Roelant Oltmans, the former Olympic and World Cup winning coach for the Netherlands, as High-Performance Director. A brave decision would be to bring in Jude Felix, assistant to Paul and appoint him chief coach. Probably, it's time, with a year to go for Rio, Narinder Batra, the man with the misplaced bravado gives off a swaggering display of courage.
Van Ass' short stint
Number of days coach Paul van Ass spent on the field with the national team
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