The naked truth about my return home
It is good to be back home with my loved ones who have supported me unconditionally. I have never washed dirty linen in public or associated in mud-slinging, so I am not going to start now. I have never shirked away from my responsibilities and so will accept this debacle in a dignified manner, befitting a true sportsman and a coach who has prophesized and advocated that one must have a broad enough chest to withstand all adversities. This is the time to display my true strength of character.
There seems to be an air of misconception to which I am now compelled to respond and explain the true facts. The federation has stated that they were only resting me for two matches at the ongoing men's hockey World Cup in Kuala Lumpur. This is just a figment of their imagination and, in my opinion, is now being used to try and push the focus off their foolhardiness that has tarnished the image of the IHF in the international hockey fraternity.
I was instructed that I should no longer handle the team and that C R Kumar [assistant coach] would be taking over. There was no talk, suggestion, nor words mentioned about my being rested for two matches. However, I will confirm that they asked me to stay back and assist C R Kumar, and go for the press conferences as though everything was in order. A charade that was against everything I believe in. I simply could not accept.
The IHF stated that I was stressed and I needed a break for two games. How could they, in all their 'wisdom', make this inference? Everyone knows that I am not one who raves and rants on the bench. I just sit, watch, analyze the play, and make substitutions according to how the game is progressing. I would like to go on record, once again, and state that I was not under any pressure. Prior to embarking on this World Cup campaign, I had done everything humanly possible towards preparing this team. The stage was set for the players to perform and for the director (coach) to just motivate, manage, and facilitate. Although we were not winning, I continued to back my players to the hilt.
The IHF, initially, did not have the gumption to speak about this matter directly to me. Instead, it was passed on via Mr. Alva, the manager of the team. This shows their true colours in the face of a situation that required a lot more finesse, honesty of purpose, and concern. It is only after the manager informed me of the IHFs decision that I responded, saying the IHF should have had the decency and courage to pass the message on themselves and not through him. I told them that I was going home. Following this, Mr Alva and C R Kumar left to meet Jyothikumaran. Subsequently, Jyothikumaran called me, to which I said: "You have taken your decision and I will take mine (which was to leave for home)."
Incidentally, for the record, Mr. Gill was speaking to me every day over the phone. How was it that he could not call me personally and convey his decision? All this talk about "having me rest" has come after the backlash the IHF is facing, mainly because of the immense support I have received from the hockey fraternity and the media around the world.
How did Jyothi say that I was not implementing C R Kumars views? This is hogwash! We discussed matters threadbare and came to amicable solutions, which were then passed on to the team. Aside from this, I'm interested to know who passed this absurd message to Jyothi. Was it someone with vested interests, or has Jyothikumaran got extra-sensory powers that he can read other people's minds without being present?
Does Mr. Gill know about Jyothi's complete lack of discretion?
Jyothi talked to Mr. Alva about my having to sit back and not coach the team, not in the privacy of a room, but rather in front of some Malaysian locals. Sad, but entirely true!
So where do we go from here?
I, for one, would only look forward and suggest the following remedial measures:
The frequent sacking of coaches has an adverse effect on the team in the long run in many ways. Firstly, it finds a scapegoat on who they can pin the entire blame. Secondly, it absolves the players of their accountability and responsibility. Thirdly, one must understand that no matter what effort a coach puts in, it is not him that plays on the field, but the players who have to perform.
And lastly, but most importantly, it does not allow for continuity in coaching standards.
Regarding the national coach... the IHF should do their homework thoroughly before appointing him. Once this is done there should be unconditional support. Only then will there be total unison, and accountability/responsibility will be shared equally. The key is to see that the national coach has the powers to create a uniform coaching policy that will be utilized by all and sundry. He should also have the right to select those coaches he deems fit, who can then become a part of his coaching staff, that will handle all the teams viz. under 12, 14, 16, 18, 21 etc.
Needless to say, verbal agreements don't mean a squat, and don't have any standing in law. There must be a legal written contract between the national coach and the IHF, wherein a few of the features could be:
1. Tenure (a minimum period that is specified, probably four years-plus).
2. Remuneration (expertise and time have to be valued and compensated accordingly).
3. Selection rights (in totality).
4. Termination clause (again specified and agreed to by both parties) etc.
Similar types of agreements could also be drawn up between the IHF and the other officials within the team management as also between the IHF and the players.
Having gone through this episode, that was shoddy and done in real poor taste, one must ensure that it never occurs again. The key now is to bounce back and bring back some semblance of normalcy into the game, by going back to the drawing board and immediately restructuring the existing system, both in administration and coaching, thereby sending out a clear signal to the world that we want to revamp our tarnished image.
Although the present scenario does leave a bitter taste in one's mouth, my heart is still where it always is: betterment of hockey. So, without telling people how they should run their lives, I sincerely hope that my above suggestions are implemented.
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Something extraordinary was expected; not this!
Mail Sports Editor