Two years into his chief coaching role with the Indian hockey team (June 2011-July 2013), Australian Michael Nobbs quit citing health reasons. But such is his love for Indian hockey that even as he went through a series of medical tests in Singapore to find out that he was dangerously close to a stroke, he’s got one eye on the happenings in the game here.
In an interview with MiD DAY, Nobbs insists his former Aussie teammate Terence Walsh’s appointment as Indian hockey’s new chief coach is apt as the team stands on the threshold of next year’s FIH World Cup (The Hague, Netherlands), Commonwealth Games (Glasgow, Scotland), Asian Games (Incheon, Korea) and most importantly the 2016 Rio Olympics. Excerpts:
What are your first thoughts on Walsh’s appointment as India chief coach?
Terry should do well. I spoke to him recently in Perth, and told him a few things he needs to look out for. I also advised him on the things that still need some doing. I hope he can put India back where it needs to be in the hockey world.
How well do you know Walsh and how well do you think he’s equipped for the job?
I have known Terry since we played together in the Australian national team. He was a very good centre-forward. We played together for about seven to eight years…World Cups, Champions Trophies, Olympics and numerous other tournaments. Terry is a great skills coach and will surely have the respect of the players.
What would be your first words to Walsh right now?
Make sure India win, those will be my first words to him. I’m not sure how well he will be as a coach with this team, as he has many challenges. But he has a very talented bunch of players at his disposal.
Based on your first impressions with the Indian players, how do you see them interacting with Walsh?
Terry will work well with the Indian players. He is a professional and he has a lot to offer them. His grandfather was Indian and I’m sure he has some Indian background. So, he should know what to expect.
You laid particular emphasis on the juniors and they won the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia recently. Do you see Walsh benefitting from this?
The program is set up for great results to start coming through. You have a good young Indian side playing in the FIH Junior World Cup in December (in Delhi) and I expect them to finish in the top three. In the last two years, a number of the juniors have been brought into the senior program since some of the seniors were banned by Hockey India due to their association with World Series Hockey. Many of these juniors will come through with some good experience under their belts (after the Junior World Cup).
Do you think Walsh has enough time to deliver considering the World Cup, Asian Games and CWG are less than a year away?
Terry will have an experienced group of youngsters as soon as the FIH Jr World Cup is over. Then, the seniors, who were banned, will also be up for selection. It’s an exciting time for Indian hockey. Walsh has enough time to get the results we are all looking forward to.