The national hockey team's Australian coach Michael Nobbs has a tough ask on his hands ahead of the Olympic qualifiers in February. With little over three months left for the qualifiers, he has shot a letter to Hockey India stating his fears over disintegration in the camp.
The main reason for this disintegration, he feels, has been the top players' stubbornness to compete in the lucrative World Series Hockey (WSH) tournament, beginning December 15, that could jeopardise preparations for the Olympic qualifiers.
In the letter to HI Nobbs says, if top players quit the national camp to compete in the WSH, his road map for Olympic qualification will go awry.
"During the league, players will be playing under different coaches for nearly four weeks. They are bound to change their style a bit, this will undo all the hard work done over the past few months to perfect a system," he wrote in the letter to HI.
The crucial training period, as per Nobbs' Olympic road map, begins from the second week of December and continues up to the last week of January.
"The players should understand that playing in the WSH will put their training rhythm off. This way I doubt if we will qualify for 2012 Games," Nobbs had told Hindustan Times recently during the nine a side hockey tournament at Perth.
Confirming Nobbs' apprehensions, HI secretary general Narinder Batra said he has apprised the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and sports ministry of the latest development. "If top players go ahead and compete in a non-FIH meet, they may face sanction. This will also spoil the team combination for the Olympic qualifiers," Batra said.
Plan B in place
In case the senior pros don't do as told, HI has a Plan B in place. Nobbs has been asked to scout the junior team, which will compete in the six-nation Sultan Johor Cup tournament at Johor Bahru, Malaysia, which begins on Saturday. "He (Nobbs) will be watching India play in the November 5-12 meet and spot talented players for the national camp," said Batra.