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IHF keeps Rach fate hanging
- Gill buys time on national coach issue

New Delhi: The fate of India's first ever foreign hockey coach, Gerhard Rach, is still uncertain. When he met Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) president K.P.S. Gill this afternoon, his services were neither discontinued nor was he confirmed as the national coach. No long-term contract looked on the cards. Rach has been working on pert-time, tournament-to-tournament agreements, and at this point he has no formal assignment with the national body.

The suspense continues. Gill asked Rach to speak to him when the coach returns from Germany on January 11. Rach is expected to return and witness the inaugural Premier League in Hyderabad. That is, of course, if the German isn't told that his services would not be required any more. Rach left for Germany in the night.

Rach was quite non-committal about his prospects. Speaking to the assembled media he said: 'I had a one-on-one, free and frank talk with the IHF chief during which we discussed about the performance in the recent Champions Trophy. He said we must speak with a free mind on a later date since there is a lot of media pressure now. There was no discussion on my future.'

The burly German coach admitted that there was a lot of pressure on the IHF to axe him, as India had managed just one victory in the Lahore Champions Trophy. Though Rach did not admit it, IHF sources admit that there was dissatisfaction at India's defensive play. In the 26th Champions Trophy India scored just 11 goals in six matches and conceded 16. In contrast in the 2003 edition, India played attacking hockey, scoring 19 but 22 goals were scored against them. In the 2002 Champions Trophy India scored 16 and conceded 18 goals.

The country now does not have a chief coach. Hence, in the three Test matches against visitors France in Delhi on December 26, 27 and 28, assistant coach Jagbir Singh is expected to take charge.

There is also some speculation that Maurits Hendriks, Spain's national coach, who has been appointed as a consultant for the Premier League, may be asked to help out with the national team on an advisory basis. If that happens Jagbir may be upgraded to national coach and Rach will no more be required. By delaying the decision on Rach, the IHF is buying time and could be negotiating with other foreign coaches including Australian legend Richard Charlesworth.

Rach’s contract looks a far shot

Keeping to the IHF's tradition of firing coaches, Rajinder Singh got the sack well into the Olympic preparation, with Gill showing barely any reason as to why, and the controversial Rach was taken in. Barely two weeks had remained for the Olympics.

The Olympics was an unmitigated disaster, India finishing a poor seventh. Many star players were sacked thereafter, and even Gagan Ajit Singh seemed too much a star for Rach's or Gill's liking.

This thoughtless chopping and changing resulted in a mostly inexperienced team which showed only brief patches of enterprise as India lost the eight-match Test series with Pakistan 2-4 on the losing side. Even in two Tests vs Spain prior to the Champions Trophy, India were hardly any force to reckon with.

Then came the unimpressive display of the Champions Trophy.

The French blend

Meanwhile, French hockey team manager Patrick Roult said he was banking on his team, which was a combination of youth and experience, to counter India's challenge, adds PTI from Mumbai.

'We have a very balanced side with a mixture of youth and experience and we want to make the most of it as playing in India is always a tough experience,' Roult said after the team's practice session at the Mahindra Stadium here Tuesday.

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