New Delhi: Ric Charlesworth, one of the greatest hockey minds, feels all is not lost for the Indian team ahead of next year's Rio Olympics but called on the administrators of the game in the country to stop sacking coaches needlessly.
Charlesworth's comments come after another foreign coach, Paul van Ass, was sacked unceremoniously five months into his three-year contract following a spat between Hockey India chief Narinder Batra and the Dutchman during the World League Semifinals in Belgium.
"You are lucky I suppose that Roelant Oltmans (now the chief coach) is still there. He has been known to the players and has been around for a while (as High Performance Manager) but yes too much chopping and changing can't be good for the team," Charlesworth told PTI on Tuesday.
The Western Australian, who is both a World Cup winning player and coach, knows what it is like to coach in India, having coached in the Hockey India League, besides spending tough 10 months in 2008 as technical director of the national team.
"In the end, you should leave the coaching up to the coaches. You put them incharge and you let them do it. There have been good things happening in Indian hockey of late but then you hear of something like this (Van Ass ouster) happening," said Charlesworth, who resigned after coaching the Kookaburras to success at the 2014 Hockey World Cup in the Netherlands.
He fails to understand why Van Ass' predecessors Jose Brasa and Terry Walsh were shown the door.
"Jose Brasa did a good job, he did not last. Then you had Michael Nobbs and Terry Walsh, who also did a very good job and team was making progress under him before another change took place. It is very difficult to build a team while all that is happening around you."
Charlesworth, however, thinks players will not be affected much by the latest controversy to hit Indian hockey.
"The players can handle it, that is not a huge issue. It has not happened one month before the Olympics. The Olympics is still an year away. They have a better preparation chance than anyone else," he said while referring to India's Asian Games gold that secured their Olympic qualification two years before the Rio Games.
India were a taught a lesson by higher-ranked teams like Australia, Britain and Belgium at the World League Semifinals where they finished fourth.
Asked him about India's chances at Rio, Charlesworth gave a realistic reply.
"They have a pretty useful team but expectations are unrealistic often. The team has gone from 10 to 8th in the world, so it is making progress. But from that position you don't expect that they would be medallists in Rio. I think to get to the semifinals will be a good outcome," said the versatile 63-year-old, who has also played first-class cricket besides being a Member of Parliament for 10 years until retiring in 1993.
There has been countless debates about what style India, a champion team of yesteryears, should adapt in the fast-paced modern hockey.
Asked Charlesworth about it, he replied: "India's style has to be a hybrid between how they used to play while adapting to the fast-paced modern game. You have to adjust to the new rules and the way the game is played. Hockey India League has been good to India with locals playing with lots of overseas players. So, the style is not such a critical thing anymore. It is the individual skill, the combination, the tactics. These are the areas India need to work on," he signed off.