Another dream of Charlesworth is shattered(Commentary)

July 12th, 2008 - 2:55 pm ICT by IANS  

By K. Datta
To many students of Indian hockey Ric Charlesworth’s resignation may not have come as a surprise. A long-time coach of the Australian women’s hockey team, he was sent out by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to help put Indian hockey on the road to recovery after India’s poor showing in the last world cup in Germany, but, it is no secret, that his appointment was greeted with little warmth not only by the K.P.S. Gill-headed Indian Hockey Federation but also by coaches and others outside it. There was little Charlesworth could do to improve playing standards of Indian teams that Indian coaches, forced to work on salaries amounting to only a fraction of what the Australian demanded, couldn’t, they argued. Moreover, because of a cultural divide, he would not be familiar with the upbringing of Indian players, and how come he had not been entrusted with the job of coach of the Australia’s men’s team, it was said. Haven’t we heard all that before?

As for Charlesworth himself, he was impressed with the individual skills and promise of Indian players and was very keen to coach the national team.

Very may know that he first came to India a few decades ago, soon after he had qualified as a doctor, with the Western Australian Cricket Association hockey team brought over by one Vanderputt, an Anglo-Indian player who once used to play for Delhi Independents. That was when young Charlesworth had his first taste of Indian hockey at the Lady Hardinge Ground, as Shivaji Stadium was then called. That was about the time when Charlesworth decided to choose hockey over cricket. The doctor was good enough at cricket to open the Western Australia innings.

Charlesworth’s line of thinking was that an Olympic gold medal was a far more important sporting prize than opening the innings for Australia in a Test match some day. In spite of playing in four Olympic Games, Charlesworth did not have the pleasue of an Olympic gold medal dangling on his chest. Now, after being cold-shouldered for months, his dream of coaching the Indian team also lies shattered. The ad hoc committee controlling KPS Gill’s disbanded Indian Hockey Federation has ultimately decided it cannot to agree to exorbitant terms of the Australian.

This time of the year is not the domestic hockey season, if there is still one left in India. Of that a little later. All eyes are on Hyderabad’s Gachibowli Stadium where the Bansal-trained Indian team have begun their campaign in the junior Asia Cup. For all the upheavals in the administrative set-up following what came to be known as the cash-for-selection scandal, people have been wise enough not to interfere with Bansal’s work with the juniors, seven of whom were fielded in the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Santiago, Ipoh and now Hyderabad, the work of old dispensation continues undisturbed. The same players, the same training camps. Little seems to have changed since the ad hoc committee was set up and a new selection committee was formed. So what was all the noise about hockey players controlling the administration of the game?

In the thick of the blame game following the Santiago disaster there was at least one voice of sanity coming from Sardara Singh, arguably the most complete player in the present national team, who reminded everybody concerned: Why blame this or that official or coach when it was, after all, the players who actually played on the field?

Putting the past behind us, it is time to look to the future. That brings us to the domestic season. While going about the task of building up the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup, both events scheduled for 2010, hockey administrators should begin restructuring the domestic programme. Cricket reshaped the Ranji Trophy several years ago, dividing the national championship into elite and plate divisions. Soccer also is undergoing process of reformation with the national professional league.

What about a national hockey league, professionally planned and run by people with a fresh approach. That old national hockey championship, as most of us know, was something of a farce till it came to the quarter-final stages. Restructure the Rangaswamy Cup the way cricket’s Ranji Trophy has been done. Our own players are in demand in the German and other leagues. Give them a lucrative alternative at home. We do have the Premier League. There is scope for more lively, innovative changes in the Indian hockey calendar.

(The writer is a veteran journalist and he can be contacted at dattak.2007@rediffmail.com)

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