The Indian Olympic Association's ad-hoc committee is in for a long haul if the appointment of Harender Singh as 'coach in-charge' of the senior men's hockey team till the 2010 Commonwealth Games is any indication.
After the controversy over MK Kaushik — who was first appointed chief coach and later, following strong opposition from the Indian Women's Hockey Federation (IWHF), was told to continue with the women's team — the ad-hoc selection committee headed by former captain Ajitpal Singh named Harender, who was assistant coach during the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
“Harender will be the coach in-charge of the Indian senior team and would be assisted by (former players) Ramandeep Singh and Romeo James,” said IOA president Suresh Kalmadi, who also constituted a seven-member technical and monitoring committee and a 15-member advisory committee on Friday.
Even as Kalmadi was announcing the new committee's members, the convenor of the ad-hoc body, Mohammad Aslam Khan, and former selection committee chairman, Aslam Sher Khan, were conspicuous by their absence.
Harender's lobby was present in full strength with Dhanraj Pillay, Ashok Kumar and Zafar Iqbal (all selection committee members) sitting alongside Kalmadi during the press conference.
It is learnt that one of the three above-mentioned selection panel members strongly recommended Harender's name. Kalmadi did not specify when or whether the ad-hoc committee would appoint a chief national coach.
Scouting for a foreign coach
As reported in the HT in July this year, the International Hockey Federation's (FIH) coaching projects manager, Tayyab Ikram, would assist the ad-hoc committee in getting a foreign coach soon. “We have discussed the issue with Ikram and he will short-list three foreign coaches and send their names to the selection committee.”
“Based on the recommendations of the panel, a foreign coach will be appointed soon,” IOA secretary-general Randhir Singh said.
He, however, didn't disclose the names, saying the FIH had “not yet informed us about the names”.
On whether the appointment of Harender till the Commonwealth Games and the constitution of the technical & monitoring panel and advisory committee meant that the ad-hoc-panel was dithering on handing over power to an elected set-up, Kalmadi said, “That's not our intention; we just want to give a good foundation to the elected members as and when they take charge.”
On the controversy surrounding the appointment of Kaushik, Kalmadi said, “The IWHF wanted Kaushik to be with them….we accepted their position.”
Stalwarts like former captain Dilip Tirkey and Deepak Thakur were among the 48 probables named for the forthcoming camp for the Commonwealth and Asian Games.
While the inclusion of the two along with nine others was subject to performance in a domestic tournament, they were admitted in the list of probables as 11 juniors were pulled out for a separate national camp.
While Kalmadi maintained throughout that Harender was yet to be informed about his appointment, the former player was present on the second floor of the Olympic Bhawan where the press conference was held, and was in the know.
“I had a long closed-door meeting with the selection committee,” he said.
“I am overjoyed,” Harender said, adding he was open to fresh ideas and a foreign coach.
The former national junior coach, who was also one of the four coaches sent to the Beijing Olympic Games to study 'trends', said, “The best will represent the country.
I want to build a single unit and my five years of experience as junior coach will hold me in good stead.”
On what went wrong during India's pathetic performance at the 2006 Doha Asian Games when he assisted Vasudevan Bhaskaran, Harender said, “It was a combination of factors.
“Now he is in the hot seat, what with at least half-a-dozen assignments lined up in 2009.”