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 March 11, 2002 | 1820 IST
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'I am fit for the job,' says coach C R Kumar

Hockey coach C R Kumar, who took over from Cedric D'Souza in controversial circumstances midway through the 10th men's World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, says his predecessor did not agree to the use of a shooting striker in the crucial match against England, and added that he is fit to take over the team.

"He [D'Souza] had a fear that we had not trained for this [playing with a shooting striker] during the last 14 months and a sudden change in our system might not fetch us anything," Kumar told the Press Trust of India in Chennai on Monday.

"He wanted to go with his game plan; he is so much experienced. No one could say anything, as coaches the world over are like that." Kumar said.

However, he was not ready to blame his predecessor for the team's poor results in the just-concluded tournament.

"We have to take collective responsibility for everything and cannot blame just one person. Cedric consulted me and took my observations. But decision-making was with him. He always discussed every aspect of performance, whether we lost or won, with me and the players."

Kumar said the team's uninspiring display in the first four matches was a big shock for D'Souza and he could not get over it.

"After we lost our first three matches, he could not get over from the shock. I felt he needed some rest. But he was a team man and there was no doubt about that," he said.

He did not find any thing wrong with IHF's action against D'Souza.

"One should take examples from other games like football where coaches are changed in between prestigous championships for bad performances," he said.

He echoed the IHF's version that D'Souza was just asked to rest for two matches. "Cedric took it differently and felt he had been almost axed from the job. Even I asked Cedric to continue. What else can I do?

"I cannot follow suit and return to India. For me, the nation is the topmost priority and then the game. Cedric, to me, comes third in the list of priorities. He has been my guru and will continue to be so," Kumar said.

Kumar felt he is now ready to take over the hot seat as he had been handling national teams for the last five years.

"For the last five years I have been handling national teams. There is no big deal in it; it is very simple for me to handle the team.

"I have seen so many international matches and did my FIH course and interacted a lot with international coaches. I feel that after having more than 100 international matches, if a coach still plays matches under pressure, he is unfit to be national coach," he said.

"In my opinion, I am fit for the job. The present junior boys would be graduated to senior levels and these players would be the team of the future. No new faces are going to be there.

"All juniors who trained under me for over 2-1/2 years know my calibre and I know their potential. The players will be more happy about me coaching them," he added.

Kumar also denied reports attributing India's failure to players being overworked.

"The last phase of the training was very soft. The players had done much harder training before and this was nothing new. Especially in Ipoh, we never gave them an excessive workload.

"In fact, Malaysia played five practice matches while we played a 35 minute game each against Argentina and South Africa before the tournament," Kumar said.

"The boys were given total rest on the eve of our first match against Japan and we did not fail to take care of the players' recovery part. None can say they were given heavy workload."

The new coach also denied that there was lack of co-ordination between the senior and junior players.

"There was absolute co-ordination. The players never experienced such problems on and off the field. While playing, there might have been some difficulties. The experienced players sometimes cannot match the juniors' speed. The juniors are more agile and the experenced players cannot play 35 minutes at a stretch."

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