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Former players open to foreign hockey coach's idea

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Apr 27 (UNI) Chopping and dropping of coaches at the drop of the hat is not going to do any good to an already moribund Indian hockey and roping in foreigners to revive the sagging fortune may not be a bad idea, feels former legends of the game.

Talking to UNI, Ajit Pal Singh, who led India to the lone World Cup triumph in 1975, was visibly pained with the game touching its nadir in India and said having a coach from abroad won't be a bad idea despite IHF's experiment with German Gerard Rach falling flat on its head during Athens Olympics.

''We should not have any problem with a foreigner at the helm of affairs. Modern day coaching is not what we saw in our pomp. Now the coach has a bigger role to play and it ranges from monitoring the players' fitness, their strength and weaknesses and formulating strategy. It's not what it was n our days. Now you need to get your strategy right and even in the course of a single match we see teams changing strategy.'' ''Foreign coaches are better reader of the game and they are much more innovative. If countries like Pakistan and Malaysia can appoint foreigners, why not India?'' he asked.

When asked why India needs foreign coaches when it has a galaxy of legendary players who could step into the shoe, the former centre-half said, ''Being a good player doesn't mean you will make a good coach and that has been the case with former players.

Foreigners can inject new ideas and Indian hockey needs just that.'' Triple Olympic gold medallist and legendary centre-forward of the yesteryears Balbir Singh Sr, however, would prefer an Indian coach but he stressed on the need to have ''advisors'' from abroad to assist the coach.

''I think having and Indian as the coach and attaching an advisor from abroad would be a perfect idea. And I also don't find any reason behind frequent chopping and dropping of coaches because that affects the team's show,'' he said.

''Coach's role is so important these days. He has to ensure that the players are disciplined and at the peak of their fitness and I think the team spirit is lacking at times. Some times I feel a particular team, like Punjab Police or Indian Airlines, is more a cohesive unit than the national team. The coach has to ensure that the unity of spirit is not missing,'' he added.

Leslie Claudius, with three Olympic gold and a silver under his belt, is more concerned about the lack of talent than the coach even though he felt foreign coaches can prove effective.

Pointed out that Indian Hockey Federation's experiment with the first foreign coach did not click and Gerhard Rach was unceremoniously removed, Claudius said, ''What do you expect from a coach who doesn't have the necessary talents at his disposal to mould a side?'' ''There are so many distractions and I think today's players think less than we used to do. We first need to ensure that the coach, whoever it is, is provided with a pool of talented players and he would make the best use of it.'' He admitted coach's job these days is more complicated than it was earlier.

Asked how much a coach contributed to the team strategy in those days, Claudius said, ''We didn't need any strategy at all because we hardly had any opposition those days.'' Former captain Pargat Singh had a different solution altogether when asked whether India needs a foreign coach to revive the game.

''Instead of foreign coach, I think we probably need a foreign federation in place of IHF to revive Indian hockey. Under IHF, there is no light at the end of the tunnel and whether the coach is foreigner or an Indian, it hardly matters. In the present scheme of things, we are bound to fail again and again and if still India manages to win a medal or a trophy, it would be purely by luck and nothing else,'' he said.

UNI AY DH RN1206

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