The exit of Graham Reid as Indian men’s team coach has set off the Indian hockey tongues wagging. And for Pakistan men’s hockey team coach Siegfried Aikman, the move comes as a surprise. “To be honest, Graham Reid’s move to step down surprised me – he did a very good job with the Indian team – he helped the team win the first Olympic medal in 41 years, guided them to a third-place finish in the Pro League as well as a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games,” says Aikman.
The experienced Dutchmen is of the opinion that the Indian team failed to rise to the lofty expectations of its home fans. “A 9th place finish would obviously be disappointing for every hockey lover and that too as World Cup hosts. But we cannot overlook the fact that India lost only one match and that happened to be the crossover tie against New Zealand in a shootout. They did not lose a single game in the pool stage despite being in the pool of death. It wasn’t really a disastrous performance,” he makes his point.
The former Japan men’s hockey team coach feels that a lot of negativity spread across social media can have a bearing on the decision-making of coaches. “I don’t know what led Graham Reid to call it quits but we are aware of how folks on social media have been bombarding the team for its failure to go beyond the crossovers. Sometimes these things can impact decision-making of people although I have no clue if that is the case with Reid.”
Aikman was, however, categorical that lack of leadership let the Indian team down at the World Cup. “Leadership gaps showed up in the World Cup. Manpreet Singh used was the captain at the Commonwealth Games and subsequently, Harmanpreet Singh was handed captaincy responsibility in the 2022-23 Pro League, Australia Test Series and the World Cup. Even Amit Rohidas led the side for a few games in the 2021-22 Pro League. I’m wondering why there was a need to change captains. I’ve nothing against Harmanpreet – he is a fabulous player but he did not look at his best. Maybe the mantle of captaincy affected his game,” he observes.