Hang on to Ric, he’s worth it all
When Athens won the 2004 Olympic bid, Greece was denied the berth reserved for the hosts — because its team was not considered good enough.
The Chinese Hockey Association (CHA) faced a similar situation when Beijing bagged the 2008 Olympics. However, how the Chinese went on to prove themselves worthy of an Olympic berth is a lesson in itself, not only for hockey administrators but also for those in any other sport.
The Chinese model was simple. All talented players were assembled at regional centres across the country and allotted to various disciplines according to aptitude. The most talented got to pick a sport while the rest were assigned a discipline, whether they liked it or not.
In late 2004, 60 boys were assigned to hockey, not the first choice for most. Within 20 months, however, this band of boys reached the Asian Games final. Along the way, they beat India and Pakistan, who have won 11 out of 20 Olympic gold medals.
How did this turnaround happen? On the FIH’s recommendation, the CHA appointed Kim Sam Ryul, the man who, as South Korea’s coach, ended India-Pak dominance at the continental level when Korea took gold at the Seoul Asiad. Ryul was given the best facilities and total freedom to train his boys.
He transformed the Chinese hockey team in exactly the same way that Hans Jorritsma, a Dutch coach, revamped Pakistan in the early 90s. The Dutch coach guided Pakistan to the World Cup in 1994 and the Champions Trophy after 14 years.
What this proves is that a competent foreign coach often does a better job as he takes a balanced view in trying and complex situations.
There is no second opinion about ‘Ric’ Charlesworth’s suitability for the India job. Ric doesn’t need the job. He has relinquished a lucrative one with New Zealand Cricket and is also sought after in rugby and baseball. His worth can be gauged from the fact that his former assistant Mark Spice is earning thrice what Ric will get in India (as coach of an English rugby club).
The IHF should take note of a report in a western Australian paper, which says that Charlesworth is likely to succeed Barry Dancer as the Kookaburras’ coach after the Beijing Olympics.
There is also the bigger picture. Charlesworth came to India at the invitation of the International Olympic Committee, the FIH and the Indian Olympic Association. By snubbing Charlesworth and not utilising his expertise, IHF chief KPS Gill will be antagonising these three big organisations.
The IHF, read Gill, is doing something that could have more damaging repercussions than the Chile fiasco.
The writer is a hockey historian and chronicler.