The confusion in the Indian hockey camp ahead of the men's Champions Trophy beginning December 4, in Bhubaneswar, does not augur well for the sport which is clawing back at the global level. India had recently won title at Incheon Asian Games and a passage to the 2016 Rio Olympics Games.
Differences between chief coach Terry Walsh and Hockey India (HI) had emerged when the former was in the process of finalising his new contract with the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Walsh's one year contract expires on Wednesday. Since he has not signed a fresh contract, he would not oversee the preparation of the national team for the Champions Trophy. Walsh said he needed some more time to decide whether to sign his new contract or not.
In his absence, high performance director Roelant Oltmans is overseeing the national camp that got underway in Delhi on Sunday at the National Stadium.
Despite federation president Narinder Batra going on record saying he does not want the Australian expert on board because of his alleged financial fraud during his coaching stint with USA women's hockey team, Walsh played the issue down saying he has no differences with the federation. "There is no issue," he told HT, adding: "Something unfortunate has happened when things were going smoothly and I can't talk about it right now."
What is intriguing is the fact that Walsh had been working with the national team for almost a year and the issue of alleged financial fraud did not crop up then. Also, a couple of weeks back, the federation was backing Walsh as there was no record available of his income-tax deduction. Then federation was critical of SAI on the issue.
Despite repeated efforts Oltmans was not available for his comments, even federation's general secretary Mohammed Mushtaq Ahmad did not respond to calls and text messages.
An official of the sports ministry said, the government had agreed to Walsh's proposal in principle. SAI's six-member panel had met twice in the last four days to discuss the proposal and then recommended it to the sports minister for his approval.
On Wednesday, Walsh and members of the panel met sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
Walsh, according to a functionary of the ministry, is keen to work with the national team, but would not renew his contract immediately. "He wants to go back to Australia at the moment," said the official.