October 3, 2023

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Sacking the coach wouldn’t assist Indian hockey, it hasn’t up to now

8 min read
Sacking the coach wouldn’t help Indian hockey, it hasn’t in the past

Indian hockey has been right here earlier than: At a juncture the place it has to decide on between stability and chaos.

In the final decade alone, they’ve been at this crossroads a number of instances: as soon as, after the triumphant 2014 Asian Games marketing campaign, then following a mean Rio Olympics, and later, with a sub-par 2018 World Cup. Each time, it shot itself within the foot, choosing disruption by sacking the coach and setting into movement a sequence of occasions that ensured the group by no means moved ahead.

One hopes they received’t go down the identical route this time. For, coach Graham Reid has not simply ensured India’s return to the Olympic podium after 4 a long time, but in addition injected a dose of stability that Indian hockey had been yearning for.

India bow out of the #HWC2023 after dropping to New Zealand in penalty shootouts 💔

🇮🇳IND 3-3 NZL🇳🇿
(SO: 4-5)#HockeyIndia #IndiaKaGame #HWC2023 #HockeyWorldCup2023 @CMO_Odisha @sports_odisha @IndiaSports activities @Media_SAI @BlackSticks pic.twitter.com/EPcLlJhtrg

— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) January 22, 2023

It was one in all his stipulations for accepting the India job in 2019. “In my initial letter that I wrote (to Hockey India), I said, ‘look, I believe this team needs some stability and consistency, even if it’s not fantastic, whatever… if it’s stable, then at least you give them an opportunity,” Reid had instructed The Indian Express earlier than the World Cup, the place his group suffered an embarrassing exit after dropping to New Zealand in Sunday’s quarterfinal playoff.

It’s a unique query if Reid – who seemed sullen and misplaced for explanations after the defeat – chooses to proceed or stroll away. But Hockey India should know the coach isn’t the issue. If something, Reid’s stint has confirmed that if a coach is given an extended rope, he’s prone to make an even bigger distinction.

A change of coach proper now would imply little or no time for the brand new individual to take management of the group forward of September’s Asian Games, an Olympic qualifying match. Failure to win a gold medal in Hangzhou would then depart the group dealing with a strain state of affairs within the last qualifying match early subsequent yr. Needless to say, it might completely derail the group’s Paris 2024 marketing campaign.

That save by Leon Hayward! #HWC2023

This match successful save is the JSP Foundation Moment of the day from the primary day of crossovers on the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023.#HockeyEquals #Hockey #blacksticks @BlackSticks @JSPLFoundation pic.twitter.com/ax9p3fLyku

— International Hockey Federation (@FIH_Hockey) January 23, 2023

But all this doesn’t absolve Reid of his missteps.

In hindsight, there have been sufficient hints that India weren’t prepared for this World Cup – the group had struggled within the Asian Champions Trophy and Asia Cup, was outclassed by Australia on the Commonwealth Games in addition to the check collection and had combined leads to the Pro League.

Throughout this era, the group’s lack of Plan B was telling. India are an open e-book for different groups, who appear to have sorted out their counter-attacking model and modify their play accordingly. Wales did that in the course of the group-stage match, and New Zealand did it too.

Questions should even be requested about his group choice – it isn’t nonetheless communicated clearly why Simranjeet Singh, one of many stars of the Tokyo Games, has been fully sidelined; or why Manpreet Singh, who led the group ably within the final 4 years, was all of the sudden stripped of captaincy; or why Harmanpreet Singh was overburdened with three roles – of being the skipper, chief drag-flicker and key defender.

Reid stated he’s tried 31 out of the 33 gamers within the core group in 2022. Largely, it was to determine his greatest mixture for the World Cup. Clearly, it didn’t work out as he would have hoped.

Strong bench energy wanted

This state of affairs factors to the standard of gamers India is producing. The hallmark of a fantastic group is that they have not less than three choices for each place. India, for many positions, don’t even have two first rate choices. In purpose, Krishan Pathak has solely not too long ago staked a declare as PR Sreejesh’s in a position successor. In penalty nook choices, there’s a strong dip in high quality if Harmanpreet – regardless of him misfiring – isn’t taking the flicks.

In midfield, India couldn’t even substitute Hardik Singh, who, regardless that sensible within the World Cup, is much from being a constant world-class participant. This was evident in the best way India’s left flank bought fully paralysed towards New Zealand, who blocked the attacking channels from the best thus disrupting India’s free-flowing counterattacking sport.

Indian gamers react after dropping towards New Zealand, within the 2023 Men’s FIH Hockey World Cup match, in Bhubaneswar, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. (PTI Photo)

There is a paucity of choices in each place and there was a visual drop in high quality every time the likes of Manpreet, Harmanpreet or Nilakanta Singh had been off the sector. And the truth that only one participant from the 2021 Junior World Cup squad, Vivek Sagar Prasad, graduated into the senior group for this competitors is one other pointer that the standard of gamers being churned out isn’t essentially of the best high quality.

After the check collection towards Australia, Reid was requested if the up-and-down outcomes post-Tokyo had been all the way down to an absence of high quality from the bench. “…that’s probably where we are,” he had stated. “It doesn’t make too much difference with a team like Australia. Their depth is really quite good. That’s where you want to try and head to.”

It needs to be clear by now that India received’t head there till it develops a strong home construction. Among the highest hockey nations, India is the one one to not have a league. Even New Zealand not too long ago began a four-franchise competitors which gives its gamers with a pathway to the nationwide group – and the coaches and selectors a platform to scout expertise.

The impression Hockey India League (HIL) had can’t be measured in phrases – the Olympic medal is proof sufficient. In the absence of such a league, there’s opaqueness to group choice, a little bit of arbitrariness even.

There’s the National Championship, in fact. But a two-week-long competitors is hardly a super platform. And as former India captain MM Somayya identified in his column in The Indian Express, the present format of the nationwide championship – dividing it into 4 classes with gamers allowed to compete in only one – is flawed and has diluted the competitors.

Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey has been in contact with the International Hockey Federation to discover a window for the HIL. The former India captain made this one in all his early priorities however the larger problem can be to search out buyers for the league, which was discontinued after the 2017 version because the group house owners didn’t discover it sustainable financially.

But in a single type or one other, the return of the HIL seems like an absolute should for the long-term well being of Indian hockey.

India Hockey head coach Graham Reid speaks at a press convention earlier than the observe session forward of the match towards Wales in the course of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023, at Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. (PTI Photo)

Drop in health ranges

The HIL additionally uncovered younger Indian gamers to among the greatest practices in world hockey and elevated the health ranges of the gamers to beforehand unimaginable heights.

One of the traits of the boys’s group within the final 10 years has been its health. The revolution began below former coach Michael Nobbs and physio David John in 2011 and peaked at Tokyo 2021, the place India, regardless of enjoying eight matches in 13 days in excessive warmth, by no means misplaced their tempo. The credit score for that went to bodily coach Robin Arkell and it may be seen as Hockey India’s failure that they couldn’t maintain on to him.

Under Arkell’s substitute, Mitch Pemberton, India have misplaced not less than half a yard of their tempo. The group begins matches slowly and has been unable to keep up the identical power ranges in all 4 quarters. Against England, Wales and New Zealand, the Indian gamers had been all the time a step behind their counterparts whereas chasing the ball, thus leaving their defence open to counterattacks.

If in any respect Hockey India decides to try the function of the teaching employees, robust questions should be requested of the health coach whose function assumes enormous significance given how briskly the game is continually changing into.

💔Not the consequence we wished. But our group will bounce again. #IndiaKaGame #HWC2023 pic.twitter.com/gJ76INwtZS

— Dilip Kumar Tirkey (@DilipTirkey) January 22, 2023

Wanted: Mental coach

Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch, one of many modern-day greats of the sport, neatly summed up what separates good groups from common ones. Speaking about the necessity to change into psychologically sturdy, Vanasch stated earlier than India’s match towards New Zealand: “If you see with all the big teams here, everyone is really the same. Technically, tactically, physically… But then mentally, you have to make that extra change.”

After the match, Reid made the same prognosis. “As far as the drills or training are concerned, we do what all other teams do. I have been in this game for a long time and I know what other teams are doing. If there is anything necessary, a silver bullet out there, I do think that (is) mentally,” he stated.

Unlike the ladies’s group, who had a psychologist connected to them throughout their nationwide camp, the boys’s group has by no means had a psychological coach with them, Reid stated. For a group that repeatedly crumbles below strain, that could possibly be one of many keys to resolve the puzzle.

“We need to do something different perhaps,” Reid stated. “Following this, we will work on how we can get a mental coach involved. I think that is an important part of the future of the team.” It is as much as Hockey India to make sure Reid stays part of that future.


Drying pipeline of expertise?

31: Number of gamers Graham Reid stated he tried in 2022 out of the 33 males within the core group. Yet, India appear to be missing choices from the bench in numerous positions.

1: Number of gamers from the 2021 Junior World Cup group who had been a part of this World Cup, one other indication that the standard of gamers being produced isn’t as much as desired ranges.


“As far as the drills or training are concerned, we do what all other teams do. I have been in this game for a long time and I know what other teams are doing. If there is anything necessary, a silver bullet out there, I do think that (is) mentally.”

Graham Reid, on the necessity to have a psychological coach going ahead

Quarterfinal line-up

Tuesday: 4.30pm: Australia vs Spain; 7pm: Belgium vs New Zealand

Wednesday: 4.30pm: Netherlands vs South Korea; 7pm: England vs Germany