To avoid embarrassment at the Asia Cup, which is the last chance to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Hockey India (HI) is set to strengthen the support staff by appointing a foreign expert, who will take care of the ‘men under the bar’.
“Goalkeeping is our weak link. Hence, we are looking for a person who will help us improve,” said HI secretary-general, Narinder Batra.
During the continental event in Ipoh, Malaysia, beginning August 24, only the winner will earn a berth for the World Cup. Apart from the hosts, Pakistan, South Korea, India and Japan are the other teams in the fray.
Since none of the top Asian teams have qualified for the World Cup, the contest is expected to be close.
According to Batra, the coach would be appointed shortly. Though HI will take administrative approval from the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the federation will be paying his salary. South African Dave Staniforth is the front runner for the job.
The immediate task of the new coach would be to polish the skills of senior players, including PR Sreejesh, who is the key keeper.
After the Asia Cup, the coach’s service would also be utilised to improve the junior men’s team as India host the Junior World Cup in December.
Apart from spotting a pool of eight to ten players, the federation will also purchase modern equipment to train keepers on modern lines.
Batra said the new coach would work in coordination with Roelant Oltmans, HI’s director, high performance, and MK Kaushik.
The latter was appointed to assist Oltmans, who was put in charge of the men’s team following the sacking of chief coach Michael Nobbs.