The Veerans have been two men short in two of their PHL III matches thus far. On Tuesday they got one more player, but he was neither the originally selected player nor his designated replacement.
They roped in former Malaysian captain Kuhan Shanmuganathan for Kasif Ali of Pakistan, who was picked up as replacement for Ehsanullah who couldn’t come because of problems with his passport.
Yes, the situation is as confusing for the media here as for some teams who don’t know who will join them and when.
While teams have been struggling with injuries to key players and delayed arrival of foreign players, the Veerans got a lucky break when they managed to rope in Kuhan.
Shanmuganathan, who was vacationing in Chennai with friends from Malaysia, got the surprising call up because the Chennai Veerans were short of foreign players in the absence of Ehshanullah (or Kasif Ali) and Albert Casas of Spain, who is expected only next week.
Though the Pakistan Hockey Federation notified the Indian Hockey Federation and the Tamil Nadu Hockey Association (TNHA) that they have selected Kasif Ali, a young full-back-cum-drag-flicker, to play for the Veerans, the Chennai team was apparently not happy with getting an inexperienced and virtually unknown player.
“We were considering various options when someone told us that Kuhan was in the city on vacation. Our representatives met him and he readily agreed to play for us,” a TNHA official told Hindustan Times on Wednesday.
“Unlike the Pakistani player, we knew about Kuhan as he had played in the first edition of the PHL in Hyderabad. He has been around for many years and his experience will come in handy as we have a very young side,” said a member of the Veerans team management.
Once they settled on Kuhan, the TNHA then sought permission from the Malaysian Hockey Association and the organizers IHF, ESPNStar and Leisure Sports Marketing to include in the team a player who was not originally in their plans.
But what came as a surprise was the hush-hush manner in which the entire deal was struck. Apart from some TNHA and IHF officials, not even the ESPN officials handling the issue were told of his ‘sudden’ appearance for the Veerans.
The media got to know about all this when his name suddenly appeared in the team roster before Veeran’s match against Bangalore Lions on Wednesday.
The whole episode, for that matter the entire procedure of selecting foreign players, reeks of adhocism.
Though the teams were given a list of their foreign players with just basic info they were midfielders, forwards and defenders. Though it was easy for known names to associate with their positions, the local coaches and players knew nothing about the Dutch U-21 players they were given.
As per the IHF letter, Maratha Warriors’ Dutch player Cesco van der Vliet was a forward as they were given two Pakistanis, Imran Warsi (full back) and Adnan Maqsood (midfielder).
But only after reaching Chennai could coach Mukul Pandy confirm that Cesco was actually a defender. Thus the Warriors, short of forwards but rich in defensive players, were saddled with another defender.
They tried to trade off him with some other teams without success. “There should have been more planning in selecting of the foreign players,” said a team official.
But when it comes to IHF, such things are common and the coaches know that many things will change for the next leg of PHL also.