Indian men’s hockey boat has been rocked by chief coach Graham Reid’s decision to step down after the national team’s 9th place finish at the 15th World Cup that concluded at Bhubaneshwar. Reid has been by far the most successful foreign coach to exit India – the historic Olympic bronze medal at Tokyo after a hiatus of 43 years would be remain one of the cherished memories for legions of Indian hockey fans. The call taken by the 58-year-old Australian has of course taken a lot in Indian hockey fraternity by ‘surprise’.
Olympian and former Indian fullback Mohinder Pal Singh – better known as MP Singh, believes every effort must be made to convince Reid to stay on. “Reid has spent more than four years with the Indian team and he knows the system in and out. With Asian Games to be played later this year and Olympics next year, the timing of his exit is uncomforting for Indian hockey. Hockey India must persuade him for the sake of continuity with these two big events ahead of us,” he says.
Singh, who had played at the 1988 Seoul Olympics as well as at the 1986 World Cup in London, is of the opinion that it is grossly unfair to single out Reid for the 9th place finish at the 15th World Cup. “We only know that he resigned on his own and have little access to what kind of discussions were held between him and Hockey India. He has done a decent job for India during his four-year-stint,” he throws his weight behind the Australian.
The former fierce penalty-corner hitter says the the 9th place finish does not quite the reflect the way India performed. “If you look closely India did not lose a game in the pool stage and ended up playing in crossover only because we came up short on goal average to England. I don’t think we played disastrous hockey and losing in shootout in the crossover can happen to any team – look at England Netherlands, and Belgium they all lost in shootouts in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final,” he makes his point.
Singh, who once held the record for scoring most short corner goals against Pakistan in the eighties, is crystal clear that the under-performing penalty corner department was the only area that let the national team down at the World Cup. “Harmanpreet Singh was outstanding in the Australia Test series in November and what suddenly went wrong with his drag-flicking one month after? Getting Brian Lomans just 15 days before the World Cup wasn’t in the end a wise move becase it only ended up confusing Harmanpreet and other drag-flickers in the team. We sorely missed the presence of Rupinder Pal Singh – he proved his worth in the Tokyo Olympics and we should not have allowed him to retire as I thought he still had some years of good hockey left in him,” he concludes.