NEW DELHI: On Thursday, Merzban Patel, who shaped the lives of innumerable young hockey players in Mumbai, was conferred the Dronacharya award (lifetime category). Twelve days before Patel was honoured, the Indian senior men’s national team took to the field against Malaysia in an Olympic test event in Japan. There was something glaring as India’s support staff took their place on the bench — the absence of an Indian coach.
While this was a one-off — it’s learned that the budget did not permit the Men in Blue to have two Indian coaches who were present at the Series Finals in Bhubaneswar — it still asked troubling questions. Save Harendra Singh and Jude Felix, former senior and junior men’s chief coaches respectively, there aren’t many names that roll out off the tongue.
CR Kumar, who was an assistant coach with the senior women’s team, says there is scope for Hockey India (HI) to do more. “There can be an attachment programme done for current coaches. For example, take the coaches of the eight best teams at the nationals and conduct a 10-day camp.” He also wants more uniformity via-vis coaching at all levels.
“Each coach has their own formation, tactics, techniques and so on. I’m not asking that to be killed but if HI can bring in more uniformity, that will be of immense benefit,” Kumar, coaching Indian Railways at the ongoing All India-MCC Murugappa Gold Cup, said.
V Bhaskaran, one of the last Indians to be chief coach of the national team, placed the blame squarely on HI. “You only have to ask them why they aren’t giving more chances to Indians. Without giving chances, you cannot say that there are no Indian coaches in the system.” He also questioned why HI have put in a rider saying only coaches who have completed FIH’s level III coaching course can become chief coach. “What advantage does it have?”
For their part, HI introduced a new Coaching Education Pathway earlier this year to bring Indian coaches up to international standards.