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IHF to give Rach ultimatum
October 20, 2004 20:08 IST
Chief hockey coach Gerhard Rach could face the axe if India fails to finish among the top four in the Champions Trophy, to be held in Pakistan in December, Indian Hockey Federation sources said in Delhi on Wednesday.
Rach, who took charge of the team just a fortnight before the Athens Olympics, is perhaps facing the toughest time of his career as the IHF said the German coach will have come up with good results in the prestigious event or take the exit route.
"He has to deliver or this could be his last assignment as the national coach," the sources said.
"However a good performance will bring rewards for him as his stint may be extended by another two years, may be till the 2006 World Cup," the sources added.
After Rach assumed charge, the Indians have played in the Olympics and against Pakistan in an eight-Test series.
The team was far from impressive at Athens, where it finished seventh, but it showed fighting qualities against Pakistan even though it lost the series 2-4.
It may not be a tough task for the IHF to find a replacement for Rach as several renowned coaches, including the famous Richard Charlesworth, are keen to take up the post.
"We have got several applications, including from four Australians. Ric Charlesworth's application is also lying with us," the sources revealed.
"It's not difficult to get a replacement. But it's too early to say anything now since the Champions Trophy is yet to start."
India, who made it to the Champions Trophy by default after Australia pulled out earlier this month citing security reasons, will have their task cut out in the December 4 to 12 tournament.
With the top five teams in the world in fray -- Holland, Germany, Spain, Pakistan and New Zealand, it may not be easy for India to finish in the top four.
"India have finished on the podium just once, in 1982. So a podium finish in Pakistan would be a great achievement for the team as well as Rach," the sources said.
Rach, whose appointment was more of a stop-gap one in the wake of the developments that led to the unceremonious removal of Rajinder Singh, has, however, managed to impress the IHF to some extent.
"Rach has brought a sense of discipline among the players. Now it is heartening to see the players following the game plan without questioning anything," they said.
"He has been able to mould the young players and make them play to a plan. This is a remarkable thing."
The camp for the Champions Trophy wlll be held in Chandigarh from October 27 and may include senior players like Gagan Ajit Singh and Deepak Thakur, who missed the Pakistan series due to injuries.
"But that would be decided by the selectors after they see the fitness certificates of these players. We may even go to the Champions Trophy without making much chopping and changing to the side that played against Pakistan."