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‘I’m happy to be back with team’

- Kaushik returns as national coach
Kaushik

New Delhi: Maharaj Krishan Kaushik returned to the senior national men’s team after a gap of 15 years when Hockey India (HI) appointed him the coach.

But unlike 1998, when he was the sole authority, Kaushik would have to work under HI high performance director Roelant Oltmans, who has replaced Michael Nobbs till the Asia Cup.

Considered one of the best Indian coaches, Kaushik is not perturbed by the fact that he would have to work under Oltmans. “It does not really bother me. I am happy to be a part of the national team and would try to do my best.”

The veteran coach, however, is aware India would be under tremendous pressure in the Asia Cup as it will be their last chance to qualify for next year’s World Cup.

The pressure was created after the national team under Nobbs finished a poor sixth in the world league in the Netherlands recently.

“The Asia Cup would be tough, but in international hockey, nothing is easy. The players have the experience and I am sure the team would do well and achieve the target,” hoped Kaushik.

Dutch Oltmans said on Tuesday that Kaushik “knows what his role is in the coaching set-up and it is not that of the chief coach.” Oltmans, meanwhile, will take charge of the team for six weeks, until the end of the Asia Cup.

The Olympic gold medallist’s best performance as a coach, however, came in the Bangkok Asiad in 1998 when he guided India to their second gold medal after 1966.

Notably, while the nation rejoiced the team’s triumph over South Korea in the final, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) came up with the shocking decision to sack Kaushik and six other senior players for dissent against the parent body.

Thereafter, Kaushik could never return to the men’s team. He was made the coach of the women’s team. He was doing well there too as the women’s squad won the bronze medal in the Doha Asian Games but had to leave under controversial circumstances after some of the players accused him of sexually harassing them.

He was subsequently absolved of the charges following an enquiry by the sports ministry.

But then, not all in the hockey circle is happy with Kaushik’s appointment and feel it is a move in the backward direction. “A foreign coach should be in charge,” said a former Olympian.

“Let us admit the fact that foreign coaches now are better equipped to guide our boys in international hockey,” he added.

Nobbs was removed as coach on Tuesday.

Nobbs, who started with a bang by winning the Asian Champions Trophy in 2011 followed by the triumph in Olympic qualifiers on home turf, suffered a huge slump in his reputation when India finished last in the 12-team competition in London.

It was the worst-ever performance by the eight-time champions.

The Australian coach also courted controversy by pointing fingers at senior players for the London debacle even during the course of the championship.

The backlash started when the team returned home. A couple of senior players said the coach was passing the blame on others.

Nobbs was also inconsistent with his policies. He advocated the induction of juniors and threw out Sandeep Singh and Shivendra Singh from the squad. Both returned to the team after a gap of one tournament.