As Indian hockey's annus horribilis nears end, the ad hoc committee governing the sport in the country has lined up a number of tournaments to help prepare for major events in 2010.
On and off the field, Indian hockey, it seemed, had reached its nadir in 2008. The team failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in nine decades and was shamed by charges of corruption involving Indian Hockey Federation secretary K Jothikumaran. The team also did not participate in many events this year, the Azlan Shah Cup in May being its last outing.
As if to make up, the ad hoc body has drawn up a busy schedule for the senior team to ready it for the World Cup in and the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010.
The programme for the Indian men's team includes a Test series against New Zealand, a four-nation event in Australia and series against Holland and Germany besides the four-nation, double-leg Punjab Gold Cup, to be held in Chandigarh and Jalandhar from January 31 to February 9. Holland and Germany besides India are the other teams in fray but there is a question mark over Pakistan's participation given the current relations between the countries.
"We haven't decided anything about Pakistan's participation in the four-nation event. The attack on Mumbai is a serious issue and we will go by whatever is decided by the government," Mohammed Aslam Khan, convenor of the ad hoc committee, told HT over phone on Tuesday.
Aslam, who will be attending the AHF congress in Kuala Lumpur on December 20, is expected to line up some alternatives in case Pakistan pulls out. Korea seems a good option considering their recent performances.
Aslam is also hopeful of completing a deal with either Malaysia or Korea for a Test series ahead of the Punjab Gold Cup. India will be playing in the annual Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia from April 3-12.
As India will not be playing the Asia Cup in Dubai (May 8-15) having qualified for the World Cup as host, the ad hoc committee is planning games against European teams in the later half of 2009.
These matches will help the team prepare for the Champions Challenge I in Argentina from December 6-13 with Belgium, China, Canada and the hosts as the major competition.
Foreign coach next month
The men's team will have a foreign coach by mid-January, Aslam said. The ad hoc committee had approached FIH for names and having got the recommendations of Tayyab Ikram, chief of the international hockey federation’s (FIH) coaching development wing, Aslam said, a decision would be taken in the next few weeks.