Australian Michael Jack Nobbs appointment as the India hockey coach is a good move. I am not aware of his credentials as a coach but I think an Australian will always be a better coach for the Indian hockey team than a Dutch or a Spaniard.
Dutch legends Roelant Oltmans and Jacques Brinkman may have had an enviable bio-data but right now what we need is the Australian style of hockey which is very similar to our traditional style.
The 2-3-5 formation that helped India to annexe the hockey world, during the Dhyanchand days till the early 70s, is widely followed by the Australians.
And Australias success in recent times — they are the World Cup and Olympic champions — shows that if we play in our traditional style we can regain the glory.
The coaches we had in the past, barring of course Ric Charlesworth, were all defensive in their tactics and most of the Indian players could not adapt to that approach — which is essentially European.
The teams like Air-India, Indian Oil and Punjab Police still play in the 2-3-5 strategy and they find it difficult to adjust to the European way of 1-3-3-3 or 2-4-4 formations in the national camp. With Nobbs at the helm now, I hope adaptability will no longer be a problem.
Another good thing is the five-year contract given to the Australian by his employers. It shows that we are now looking for long-term success and the coach can take his time at the helm.
Nobbs major test will be the Olympic qualifiers. Going by our performance in the Azlan Shah Trophy, we hardly have any chance to qualify for the London Olympics. But, a new coach with new ideas can boost the sagging morale of the players. We could not qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games and if we fail yet again then it will be difficult to make a comeback.
In the last 15 years, cricket has caught the imagination of the youngsters in small towns, from where we used to get hockey players. Now, with success in hockey hard to come by, very few are taking up the game as a career. So I think qualifying for the 2012 Games is very vital for the sport to thrive in India.
The ongoing feud between Indian Hockey Federation and Hockey India has also hampered our growth. Sports minister Ajay Makens effort to unite the two warring factions should be lauded.
And I thought there is actually light at the end of the tunnel. But then suddenly KPS Gill said the IHF was not ready for the merger in its current form. And I find thats ridiculous.
Recently Narendra Batra was in town on a private visit and he was telling me that Hockey India has no issues with the merger.
So sooner the IHF realises that the merger is the only option left, the better it is for Indian hockey. After all why on earth we should have two Nationals in the all the categories?
Talking about local hockey, the Bengal Hockey Association got the green light from the state government to demolish the encroachments in the land allotted for the astro-turf ground. Its a very good move and I am hoping work will begin for the new ground soon.