New Delhi: Still awaiting an apology from Pakistan over its players' behaviour in last year's Champions Trophy hockey tournament, Hockey India president Narendra Batra today said he would love to have players from the neighbouring country in the HIL but not with the kind of conduct they displayed.
Two players were handed a one-game ban and reprimanded by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) after the Pakistan team went on a rampage post their semi-final win against India in Bhubaneswar in December last year.
Showing obscene gestures to the crowd, some players also took off their shirts in celebration. Batra insists that India have received no act of regret from Pakistan for the unfortunate incident.
Pakistan's Shafqat Rasool shows his middle finger to spectators as he and teammates celebrate their victory over India in the Champions Trophy semi-final at Bhubaneswar in December 2014. Pic/AFP
"I would love to have Pakistan players but not with the kind of behaviour they displayed in the Champions Trophy. And they have shown no regret of that incident in writing or otherwise. I don't want to politicise the issue but that kind of behaviour was unacceptable. Least we need an apology from them," Batra said.
Nine Pakistani players were part of the first edition of Hockey India League (HIL) in 2013 but had to leave the country before the start of the tournament following protests from a few political organisations. Since then no Pakistan player has been included in the three HIL editions so far.
India though have benefited from the mega-event with quite a few international players rubbing shoulders with the national youngsters. And Batra is boastful of the HIL having a positive impact on Indian hockey.
"Our aim at HIL is to form a pool of players for the future. We already have eight players from HIL in the national side. HIL has created heroes and a space for itself in the big world of cricket.
"We have won the Asian Games gold after 16 years and were able to get the better of Pakistan in an Asian Games final after 48 years since 1966. So the national sport has certainly improved in the last four or five years and HIL is one of the reasons behind it," said the HI president.
Batra also informed that the senior and junior hockey set-up is on the verge of getting a boost by addition of more coaching staff.
"The senior team will have a new analytical coach by November 1. The junior team will be getting a scientific advisor in a month's time. The women's senior and junior team will also be getting an analytical coach and a scientific advisor respectively. So we are in the process of equipping our players with the best support staff for a bright future of the national game," Batra said.
With the issue of foreign coaches also troubling many a legend of the national game, Batra said that the time is not far when India wil have their won home-grown professionals.
"You will see many Indian coaches come up in the next 3 to 4 years. We are in the process of building a pool of professionals who can really take the game to a new level. Young officials have adapted to the changes in the game and that is encouraging and I can see Indian coaches making a mark in the next few years," he said.
"Having said that we should not be shortsighted in our approach and segregate the coaches as foreign and India. We have never had any egos as far as hiring foreign professionals are concerned. I don't know whether I am right or wrong in my assessment, but I believe our neighbours Pakistan are lagging behind on this count and have failed to catch-up with the changing ways in the game," he added.
Also talking about Gurbaj Singh's ban hearing on September 18 -- a day after the HIL auctions, Batra said that the talented midfielder would certainly be including in the reserve pool if the suspension is lifted.
The senior player was suspended in August this year for nine months for indulging in groupism and creating disharmony within the team. "If Gurbaj's ban is removed in the hearing on September 18 then he will certainly be included in the HIL reserve players' pool and I am sure team's will be happy to pick him," he said.
With two-wheeler giant, Hero's name missing from the latest banner of HIL season 4, scribes were curious to know the status of their deal with the title sponsor and Batra said, "We had a three-year contract with them, which has expired and they need to renew it. We are in the process of finalising the contracts with a lot of or sponsors and Hero is one of them.
"We have offered a five-year deal, now it's upto them to take it. Only STAR has renewed its contract with us and they are on board with us."