It's not happened for the first time and doesn't look like it's the last. Yet another Indian hockey coach — this time Harendra Singh — was sacked after a mediocre sixth place finish at the 2018 Hockey World Cup. Within six years this Indian men's team has seen the ouster of as many coaches in what has seemingly become a trend.
After Harendra took over from current women's coach Sjoerd Marijne, the former would have hoped that he was here to stay and could eventually take India to new heights. But little did he know of the erratic ways of Hockey India. After just seven months into the service, he was removed from his position and asked to coach the junior team once again.
Former India coach V Baskaran, who coached the Indian team for close to 10 years, is miffed with the move and wants Harendra back in the job. Talking to News18 Sports, the 68-year-old also expressed his displeasure with the way the Sports Ministry has had no say in all the mess.
"First of all I want to know who wanted Harendra changed. Was it Hockey India or the High Performance Director David John? What perplexes me is what faults have you found with Harendra.
"How can Harendra go back to the junior level if he has done so well with the senior team. Honestly, he was India's best coach in the last 2-3 years because he has helped India beat big sides with great margins. He has handled the team better than any of the foreigners," Baskaran said.
"One year back when he had won the Junior World Cup, he was good enough to coach the senior team. And now when the team is losing, he has become undeserving.
"Having said that, this hasn't come as a surprise at all. I have been at the receiving end so many times. That's how hockey in the country functions. Deserving coaches just don't get a long run."
Launching a scathing attack on John, who has been the HPD since 2016, Baskaran questioned his credentials to the top. For the record, John is a former exercise physiologist and scientific adviser, who has helped the Indian team achieve unprecedented fitness levels. But he has no expertise in hockey, which one would think is a requisite for the job.
"How did John manage to become the HPD. He is not a hockey man, in fact he doesn't know how to hold a hockey stick. How does he function, what vision does he have for Indian hockey?
"How many states he has toured, he stays in Delhi. I don't know why no one is talking about replacing him. First remove him and then talk about improving Indian hockey. I want to ask the sports minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, what is he doing about it?
"My blood boils when I see such an unqualified man in the setup. No country will ever appoint a person like that. He is the 'Low Performance Director'. What was his contribution in the recently concluded World Cup? He has managed to fool the Indians. If he is the HPD, he should know more than Harendra and clearly he does not," Baskaran continues.
The move to remove Harendra only goes to show that the Indians haven't learnt from their previous mistakes and it is perhaps some undeserving foreign coaches who are landing the job.
Baskaran further adds, "I have no problem against the foreigners, but I don't see anyone better than Harendra for this job. Michael Nobbs, what did he do with this team. Under him the team slipped to number 12 in the rankings. How did he come?
"Terry Walsh was the first HPD. He was a former Australian player and he was a good coach. Under him the Indian boys learnt a lot in 2013-14. Not coming to Roelant Oltmans from Netherlands, he is a good tactician and produced results. But now what are the options.
"I hold the Ministry of Sports responsible for all this mess as they are the ones who pay the salaries to the coaches. They should know as to why is a coach being brought or sacked. It is the government's duty to check on the recommendations given by the federation."
Not just venting his ire, Baskaran also provided the solution to the problem — make the sports ministry accountable and give Harendra a two-year run.
"I don't want anyone except Harendra to coach India and at least for two years. Right now India won't get a better coach than him. If there is anyone better, tell me who is it. He has worked with me for two-three years and I know what he can give the team," he signed off.