Even as the drama was unfolding at the headquarters of Hockey India in the Capital, top Sports Ministry officials met the women's team at a city hotel before they left for the Asian Champions Trophy in Busan, South Korea. The officials interviewed the players who had sent a letter to the ministry asking for the removal of several members of the coaching staff on grounds of harassment and incompetence.
The letter, and the probe that will follow, prompted the immediate resignation of head coach, MK Kaushik. But, while Kaushik will not accompany the team to Busan, his assistant, Vasu Thapliyal, and manager Madhu Yadav, will travel. Both officials were among those whose replacement had been demanded by the players.
“We have told them everything including that we do not want Vasu Thapliyal and Madhu Yadav as part of the team,” said a player. “Thapliyal is just a waste as coach. He has been with the team since 2003, but we have not seen any benefit from his coaching. Madhu Yadav has only served to ruin the morale of the team.”
Of the coaches travelling, Khalid Modi was the only one the players wanted to stay on for the tournament that begins from July 27. The team however, was told that the changes could not be made immediately. “SAI officials told us that there was not enough time, and so changes in the support staff could not be made. They have assured us that once we return, the matter will be looked into,” said another player.
According to sources in SAI, the players were categorical in their opinion on Kaushik's conduct.
“They said that the coach had never harassed them sexually but they wanted justice for Th. Ranjita, who had made the allegations,” said an official on condition of anonymity. Even Narinder Batra, HI Secretary General, said earlier that he had spoken to some of the players and they clarified that Kaushik had never made sexual advances towards them.
Former player Zafar Iqbal, who is part of a four-member inquiry panel looking into the allegations, floated the possibility of a conspiracy against Kaushik, despite the team's solidarity with Ranjita.
“We have been told that the harassment has been taking place for the last six months. It is a little surprising that the matter was brought up with only a week left for hockey elections,” he said and added that the case put forth by Ranjita was not watertight.