Hockey India (HI)’s decision to appoint Terry Walsh as coach of Indian men’s hockey team is a very positive move. To me this is the best move by the association since appointing Ric Charlesworth.
Walsh brings in a wealth of experience and Indian hockey can only benefit from this legendary Australian.
There is a plus point in appointing an Australian as the chief coach. We play hockey, which is very similar to Australia. So the players will not find it difficult to adapt to Walsh’s style of coaching.
Walsh did a wonderful job with the Malaysian team and also with the Australian and the German national hockey teams. He was a great player himself and that also gives him the advantage.
But it will be foolish to think he will give us success straightaway. We have to be patient and give him at least three years. In India, we expect our team to win the World Cup, the Olympics, the Asian Games. Whereas the fact is Indian hockey is at its lowest ebb. So our target should be to be amongst the top six hockey-playing nations.
Once we manage to do that, we can think of making it to the semi-finals of a World Cup or an Olympics.
Michael Nobbs got a long-term contract and he helped us to qualify for the London Olympics. Qualifying for the Olympics was no big deal since the rival teams hardly posed any trouble. And when the real battle came in July-August 2012, we were at sea. We finished last and Nobbs was lucky to save his job.
For me, the last time we were in the semi-finals of a major tournament was 38 years back. In 1975 we won the World Cup. Agreed we won the Moscow Olympic gold in 1980, but with a glut of pullouts, it was hardly a competitive tournament. We had a good chance in the Sydney Olympics, but we faltered once again.
So I would urge the HI to be patient with Walsh. Once he gets a grip of the things, results will definitely come.
These days people are very happy with the way the Indian junior team is performing. I am sceptical and do not take those performances seriously since most of the players are over-aged. I am saying this because I have seen how we field over-aged players and bask in glory after a triumph.
Some 20 years back, there was one player who was playing an under-21 tournament and his age was 27! So there’s no point in gloating over the junior team’s success.
Still we have some talented juniors like Mandeep Singh who, I am sure, Walsh will be interested in giving a look-in. Ramandeep Singh is also showing promise, but I am not sure whether you can bracket him in the junior category!
Talking about the senior members, goalkeeper Sreejesh Ravindran, is in the form of his life. We lost to South Korea in the last tournament, but Sreejesh was absolutely brilliant. Finally, we have got a good goalkeeper and I hope under Walsh, Sreejesh gets better and better.
We have qualified for the 2014 World Cup and only a formal announcement remains to be made. Walsh’s real test will be the Cup.