Harendra removed from the hot seat

Harendra removed from the hot seat

Harendra Singh

Harendra Singh has been removed as the chief coach of the men’s hockey team in the aftermath of a disappointing 2018. He has been asked to resume the coaching responsibilities of the junior team.

The decision was taken on Monday when the Hockey India High Performance and Development Committee met “with a vision and emphasis on building a strong player base ahead of the 2021 Junior World Cup and the 2020, 2024 Olympic Games.”

The committee was of the view “the year 2018 was very disappointing for the Indian men’s hockey team with results not going as expected.” It included India’s quarterfinal defeat in the World Cup staged at home in December.

The meeting was attended by Chairman Dr RP Singh and members including Olympians Harbinder Singh, B P Govinda and Syed Ali.

“On the basis of their discussions, the committee has recommended to re-assign Dronacharya Awardee Harendra Singh as the coach for the Indian junior men’s hockey team. The offer has been made by committee chairman for the said position to Harendra Singh for taking charge of the junior men team commencing from the camp slated to start in March 2019.”

With just one year to go for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Hockey India will soon invite applications for the position of the chief coach. The team will be returning to a training camp in February for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup scheduled to commence from March 23.

In the interim, the team will be overseen by Hockey India High-Performance Director, David John and current analytical coach, Chris Ciriello.

Last year had seen an inexplicable swapping of coaches after Hockey India sacked Roelant Oltmans in September 2017. He was the 23rd coach to be sacked in as many years and the fourth foreigner in the last four years. HI, shockingly, replaced Oltmans with the women’s team chief coach Sjoerd Marijne. In place of Marijne, Harendra was roped in.

The HI realised the move didn’t work when the men’s team returned without a medal from the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast with players complaining against Marijne’s coaching style.

A month later, in May, HI swapped the coaches. This time, Harendra was given charge of men’s team and Marijne returned to the women’s side. However, it did little to change the fortunes of the Indian team. They lost to Australia in Champions Trophy final for the second successive year, once again on penalties.

The flash point turned out to be the Asian Games, where defending champions India exited after a shocking semifinal loss to Malaysia on penalties. To make matters worse for Harendra, India finished without a medal in the Worlds losing the quarterfinals to the Netherlands. Ironically, it is learnt that the HI had approached Oltmans recently but the Dutchman had turned down the offer.

Meanwhile the HI move has come as a surprise to Jude Felix, the current junior coach, who hasn’t received any communication from the ruling body.