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Harendra Singh reaping rewards of Roelant Oltmans labour, says Pakistan coach

Rehan Butt, who has visited India “countless times” and knows Indian hockey like the back of his hand, said: “Oltmans is a really good coach. He built the Indian team with dedication, but see what he got.

other sports Updated: Aug 19, 2018 09:25 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times, Jakarta
Harendra Singh,Roelant Oltmans,Rehan Butt
Indian Hockey team coach Harendra Singh during a practice session ahead of Asian Games 2018.(PTI)

Former Pakistan captain and dreaded forward Rehan Butt, who in his heydays saw the rivalry between India and Pakistan touch great heights, says India blundered by sacking coach Roelant Oltmans.

Butt, who has visited India “countless times” and knows Indian hockey like the back of his hand, said: “Oltmans is a really good coach. He built the Indian team with dedication, but see what he got. Another person is now at the helm. Phal doosre log kha rahe hain (Other people are enjoying Oltmans’ fruit of labour,” said the 38-year old who was part of Pakistan’s three consecutive bronze-medal campaigns at the Champions Trophy between 2002 and 2004.

“He (Oltmans) planted the sapling and Harendra Singh (current India coach) is reaping the harvest,” said Butt, who was part of Pakistan’s winning campaign at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.

“People would remember Butt during the South Asian Games in 2016, when as coach he had to don the jersey of a player against India as one of Pakistan’s key players was not granted visa. Now, he is busy preparing strategy to deny India an encore at the Asian Games but deep inside he wants a ‘unified’ team of India and Pakistan to compete at the world stage.

“It is my dream that India and Pakistan play as one team in the international arena. Nobody in the world can beat our joint team. If the two Koreas can come together and field some unified teams, then why not India and Pakistan.”

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For now, his focus is on getting the better of India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh. “With Sreejesh manning the goalpost, it will be difficult for us to beat India. Sardar Singh too is a tough customer. Of late, I’ve seen he has stopped taking risks and plays safe hockey, so snatching the ball from him too will be a tough task,” said Butt, whose superb show during the 2003 Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad couldn’t help Pakistan get past India in the final.

When reminded that the unparliamentary behaviour of Pakistan during the 2014 Champions was still fresh in the minds of Indians, Butt conceded, “Those gestures by Pakistani players (who took off their shirts and made obscene gestures after they beat India in the semi-final) were in poor taste. It was unfortunate. They (Pakistan players) were angry because the spectators were hurling abuses at them.”

Last time at the Asian Games in Incheon, India played Pakistan twice --- once in the league phase and in the final --- and both times India won. This time, being in separate pools, the arch-rivals will not meet before the semi-finals. “I want India and Pakistan to top their pools so that we only meet in the final and it should be one hell of a final,” said Butt, adding under Oltmans the team has learnt tricks and “we will apply them against India”.

With Imran Khan taking over as Prime Minister, will it give a fillip to country’s hockey? “We have a new Wazir-e-Azam (head of state) and he is a sports legend. He will certainly help Pakistan hockey grow. The pay dispute with the Pakistan Hockey Federation is history and now its mission gold at the Asian Games,” he concluded.

First Published: Aug 19, 2018 09:25 IST