Mumbai: Former India hockey coach Michael Nobbs said it was perhaps a good time to appoint a home grown product to take up the national coach's job ahead of the Rio Olympic Games, for which the squad has already qualified.
"I wouldn't worry about the coaches -- they come and go. The real key are the players. Hockey India is doing a great job. Why not put an Indian coach for the job? You have 18 months to go. You are the first team to qualify for the Olympics. Why not give someone from India a chance," the Australian told reporters here today.
Nobbs, who is on a visit to India on behalf of Australian company Grassman that produces wet and dry artificial hockey turfs, however felt Hockey India was unlikely to pay heed to his suggestion.
Naming a few who he thought could do the coaching job well, Nobbs said: "You have Cedric D'souza, M K Kaushik, Harendra Singh and Jude Felix and I am sure there are many more. Harendra is now an FIH (recognised) coach. It is just my suggestion to select an Indian coach but they (HI) are not going to accept it. They will go with a foreign coach. That's okay as well. You have to be optimistic and go forward."
Nobbs, who coached the country before his compatriot Terry Walsh took over, was happy with the progress made by the Indian men's hockey team since his departure and predicted it will ascend the medal rostrum at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"I have been really pleased with its progress. Every single kid that I picked after the Olympics is in the team. It is a young experienced team and you are getting better. By the 2020 Olympics, I bet that India will win a medal.
"HI has really pushed the kids since the past three-four years. After the next Olympics, these kids will come in or at least put pressure on the existing players, so in the following Olympics you will have seriously good players like Manpreet Singh," he said.
Nobbs, India coach from June 2011 till July 2013, did not seem too concerned about former coach Walsh's departure after a tiff with HI president Narinder Batra.
"You got a really good bunch of young kids with 100 odd Test matches. Very few coaches are going to make this team a million per cent better. I don't think a coach will make them world beaters. You won't win a gold medal in the next (2016 Rio) Olympics regardless of who coaches it.
"But you will get better and better and as everyone has said it is the process and its working pretty well. There will be new coaches and he will do good because the team is doing better," said Nobbs.
He also felt that the new format in hockey, in which the game is divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each as opposed to the traditional 70-minute one split into two halves, seems to have levelled the playing field a bit between top notch teams like Australia and struggling ones like India.
"In a 70-minute game, you do your substitution based on every 5-6 minutes, so you rotate your players through. Australia and all the other top 10 teams have equal players.
"In India's case that (new format) could be a really good thing. It could level up the field where fitness is not the most paramount thing unlike the old one where you can put pressure on the team for 70 minutes and they can make mistakes due to sheer exhaustion.
"I am not 100 per cent sure (about the suitability of the format). It's made for television. Let's give it 6-9 months and it will work for India." He, however, ruled out any chance of him applying for the coach's job again.
"It nearly killed me last time. I would rather sit on the sidelines along with you people. It's a young person's game and you need a young coach."