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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

India’s depth in hockey allows them to look beyond Sardar Singh: Ric Charlesworth

Ric Charlesworth has not just won a World Cup as player, but also coached the Australian men’s team to World Cup crowns and women’s team to Olympic success.

other-sports Updated: Dec 03, 2018 18:54 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sandip Sikdar
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneshwar
Indian Hockey player Sardar Singh during a practice session ahead of Asian Games 2018.
Indian Hockey player Sardar Singh during a practice session ahead of Asian Games 2018.(PTI)
         

At the end of a press conference, India coach Harendra Singh was asked who does he idolise? “Only one man, Ric Charlesworth,” he said.

The 66-year-old Australian has not just won a World Cup as player, but also coached the Australian men’s team to World Cup crowns and women’s team to Olympic success.

Hindustan Times caught up with the Charlesworth and discussed the ongoing World Cup, the Indian team, the currently defunct Hockey India League (HIL) among other topics. Excerpts:

How has the World Cup been so far?

Predictable. Higher ranked teams have won all matches. So, it is on form so far. But the upsets will come.

An Indian (Harendra) is coaching India after 10 years. Your thoughts…

Harendra is there because he’s served a good apprenticeship. He’s been around since I was here a decade ago. He’s had time with many foreign coaches. I’m sure he has learnt from them. They have played a part in developing India but in the end, you want an Indian to be coaching your team because you don’t have many players speaking English well… so from the point of communication, he is good to have. He’s calm and has been constantly learning. He’s a good choice.

What about his Australian deputy Chris Ciriello?

Every team has specialist coaches, for goalkeeping, for finishing and also drag-flicking. Ciriello (a drag-flick specialist) had a good action, understands the craft and can give confidence as well as technical help. He has much to contribute (as analytical coach).

India’s chances?

India have to win the quarter-final. Then if you get to semis, which they are capable of, anything can happen. There are no favourites this time. This is a very even competition. Argentina, Australia, Germany, Holland, Belgium and India -- winner will come out of those.

Can India lift the trophy?

They are at home and comfortable here. There is pressure on them, but they now are of that quality. Ten years ago they weren’t when I was here. I said then it was a 10-year job to get India up into the medals. We are now seeing that eventuate. The HIL was important. India need to make sure they get it up again. That is important for the growth of the game here and elsewhere.

Your opinion on Sardar Singh’s decision to retire ahead of the World Cup?

If you asked me earlier who would be playing the World Cup, I’d have said SV Sunil, Sardar and Rupinder (Pal Singh). But they’re not. But that says something about India’s depth now which you didn’t have a decade ago. India still have a competitive team without those three. Sardar’s was an important decision. You don’t take it lightly. If he was willing to work his way… he’s 31 and could have played a couple of more years. He can play in Tokyo but that depends on lots of other things. Maybe he’s not worked as hard and is not as fit as he could be. But you don’t lose your skill. If you have desire then you can keep playing. I played at a World Cup at 34 and Olympics at 36.

They’re talking of changing HIL to five-a-side. Your thoughts about Hockey 5s?

Stupid! Why? It is crazy. This game (11-a-side) here can do.

But what about the threat of dropping hockey from Olympics?

(If) that happens, that happens but hockey doesn’t want to lose its essence. In cricket, you needed a short game, but we don’t. We have a one-and-a-half hour product and its exciting and full of skills. If you lose your essence, then it is a pity. Football didn’t find it necessary. It’s slow and boring so why would we? Unfortunately, it’s a lot about media and marketing, not about what actually happens in the game.

First Published: Dec 03, 2018 18:54 IST

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