Harendra removes the language barrier: Sreejesh

GREAT CAMARADERIE PR Sreejesh (left) hailed the appointment of Harendra Singh as the coach of the men's team. DH PHOTO/ SRIKANTA SHARMA R

PR Sreejesh, who was reinstated captain of the Indian hockey team late last month, hailed Harendra Singh's appointment as the chief coach, saying he abolishes the language barrier that makes lives easy for everyone.

Over the last decade, a number of foreign coaches have managed the senior men's team but almost all have had to leave prematurely owing to a variety of factors. Sjoerd Marjine was the latest victim as a poor show at the April Commonwealth Games saw Hockey India do a swap, anointing Harendra as the men's coach and handing the women's team reins back to the Dutchman.

"I've known Harendra sir for the last 14 years," said Sreejesh following a training session at the SAI Centre here on Tuesday. "In fact, nearly everyone in our team has trained under Harendra sir at some point in his life. Harendra sir knows how to treat a junior and how to treat a senior. The main difference is the language. But that's very important for a youngster's development. I prefer coaches who are tough with juniors. He is like an officer in the military -- really strict, harsh, but friendly!

"The first thing is language -- there is no need for translation. If there is a mistake on the field, it's quite easy for us to discuss it. And any player, even a junior, can directly go to the coach and discuss things. Language is a big thing. The second thing is the comfort zone, how he makes players comfortable with him. Everyone feels free to talk, discuss things and accept their mistakes. That's the change, the process of improving as a team. That's a positive sign before the Asian Games," the ace goalkeeper added.

Sreejesh also felt India needed to harness top-level local coaches. "We should develop our own coaches, that's for sure. Indian coaches are developing players from the grassroots levels. We need to give them more experience and technologies. We should conduct clinics to update their knowledge so that more coaches come through. The quality of the players at the grassroots level always helps to get the real cream into the national squad. We are lacking that nowadays in India. We need to work hard on the grassroots level."

Sreejesh said the entire team should take the blame for the Gold Coast CWG debacle where India finished a poor fourth. "There are a lot of people I can criticise if I want to. But being a player, I think we should take responsibility. On the field, it's not the coaches or the support staff or the federation who play. It's up to us to execute things. It's all about how we, the players, are playing. As a keeper, I can say that maybe I conceded some easy goals. We could've converted some chances. It's a team game. You can't blame only the forwards, the defenders or the goalkeeper. It's important for us to support each other."

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Harendra removes the language barrier: Sreejesh

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