‘Harendra Singh has a good chance to be India coach again’

By, Lucknow
Feb 07, 2023 10:50 PM IST

The National Sports Federation (NSF) has already advertised with February 15 being the last date of filing applications for the vacant post. Among a host of foreign coaches, one name doing the rounds is former India coach Harendra Singh.

With the exit of Graham Reid post the disappointing result at the recently concluded World Cup in Odisha, Hockey India’s (HI) primary task is to appoint the next chief coach of the men’s national hockey team.

FIle image of Harendra SIngh.(File)
FIle image of Harendra SIngh.(File)

With the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games – qualifying tournament for the 2024 Paris Olympics – only seven months away, hiring a coach at the earliest for the Olympic bronze medallists is a priority.

The National Sports Federation (NSF) has already advertised with February 15 being the last date of filing applications for the vacant post. Among a host of foreign coaches, one name doing the rounds is former India coach Harendra Singh.

“The Pro League and Asian Games are the two major events this year. We are focussed on the latter as winning the event will get India an automatic berth in the Paris Olympics. We have many names for discussion and Harendra is among them,” a key HI functionary said on condition of anonymity. “Harendra has a proven track record with the junior team and has a good chance to train the Indian team once again.”

Harendra guided the Indian men’s junior team to victory at the 2016 Junior World Cup following which he was made coach of the senior team too, coaching them till the 2018 World Cup where India exited in the quarter-finals. He was also coach of the 2017 Asia Cup gold medal winning Indian women’s team. Harendra was replaced by Reid in 2019.

However, the 54-year-old Harendra, who is currently the head coach of the United States of America men’s team, refused to comment but not before advocating for an Indian to coach the national men’s team as he felt that homegrown coaches have better understanding with players.

“Look at the teams in the recent World Cup where most teams had their own coaches. A homegrown coach for India is a must as he has better understanding of every individual as our players come from different backgrounds, culture and environment,” he said.

He suggested that for technical expertise HI should appoint a high performance director. “For that job I would love to see Australian legend Ric Charlesworth once again. I have worked with him and find him the best person for this post. Where all the world’s coaches stop thinking, he begins from there. The man is a master in getting the best out of players,” he said.

Harendra also praised former HI president Narinder Batra for giving a big fillip to Indian hockey since the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG), adding that the Hockey India League (HIL) should be restarted as it helped Indian players gain experience of rubbing shoulders with top Europeans and Australians.

“Undoubtedly, Batra has taken Indian hockey where it is supposed to be. India’s recent journey stated with the 2010 CWG. We saw professionalism, money, maximum exposure. HIL was a big plus as our players got to learn many new things,” he added.

Harendra suggested launching a new domestic league and also the revival of state hockey leagues. “I am saddened to see the poor state of hockey leagues in states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. If we have regular domestic leagues like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, we will have a huge number of players across the country. See the strong domestic structure of foreign teams as they spot talent through that setup,” he said.

Terming the conduct of National Championships in all age groups just as an 'annual fair', Harendra said HI should divide the domestic structure in five zones as North, South, West, East and Central and conduct leagues as it would keep our players busy for 8-9 months a year. The league would also then serve as a selection system.

“Follow the pattern of Ranji Trophy cricket where all teams are equipped with top coaches, physios, video analysts, masseurs, yoga teachers etc. The revival of academies is also a must as the game has changed entirely and our domestic coaches should learn how to attach science with the game. In India we use an old system and our domestic coaches neither want to learn the importance of science in hockey and its proper uses," said Harendra.


    Sharad Deep is a versatile sports journalist, who loves writing on cricket and Olympic sport. He has played cricket at the university level and has been writing for Hindustan Times since 1997.

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