India men’s hockey coach Graham Reid quits after World Cup flop
The Australian, who took over in 2019, guided India to bronze at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics but the hosts finished only tied ninth in the World Cup which ended on Sunday.
Indian hockey team’s Australian chief coach Graham Reid resigned on Monday, taking responsibility for the hosts’ World Cup failure. India, who won bronze at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics to end a 41-year wait, finished joint ninth in the tournament staged in Odisha.
“It is now time for me to step aside and hand over the reins to the next management. It has been an honour and privilege to work with the team and Hockey India (HI) and I have enjoyed every moment of this epic journey. I wish the team all the very best,” said Reid, who joined India in April 2019.
Reid took Indian hockey to its biggest success for 41 years in Tokyo, where the Manpreet Singh-led side achieved their first podium finish since their 1980 Moscow Olympics victory. However, the World Cup turned out to be a big disappointment as India didn’t even reach the quarter-finals, crashing out in the crossovers to New Zealand.
India then won the classification matches against Japan and South Africa to finish joint ninth, the worst showing by a host nation at the World Cup. The previous worst displays were Argentina in Buenos Aires 1978, Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur 2002 and India in New Delhi 2010.
After submitting his resignation to HI president Dilip Tirkey, Reid addressed the team and support staff on Friday evening to convey his decision. Many players were surprised. “He took us to our greatest result in 41 years which shows he is a good coach,” said a team member on condition of anonymity.
Reid told the players that if he could not deliver results then it was time to move on, after which the players said their goodbyes to the Australian.
The Indian team’s analytical coach Greg Clark and scientific advisor Mitchell David Pemberton also tendered their resignations, on Monday morning. All three will serve their notice period over the next month.
Tirkey, along with HI secretary general Bholanath Singh, met the players and support staff to understand and analyse the team’s performance and strategy for the way ahead.
Having accepted the resignations, Tirkey, a former India skipper, said: “India will always have gratitude to Reid and his team of support staff who have brought good results to the country, particularly in the Olympics. As all journeys move to different phases, it is now time for us to move on towards a new approach for our team.”
A couple of India players said on condition of anonymity that they were unhappy with the training methods of Pemberton, who was hired after Robin Arkell left after the Tokyo Olympics. South African Arkell was with Germany, who lifted the World Cup on Sunday evening after beating Belgium in sudden death shootout.
Reid was given a free hand to select the World Cup team considering the success he had at the Olympics. There was lot of discussion in hockey circles on the penalty takers in the crossover game defeat against New Zealand after the most experienced players were not picked to do the challenging job.
In hockey, most decisions are taken by the bench, which is headed by the chief coach. Reid has traditionally backed young players. For example, he chose a young Shamsher Singh over the experienced Akashdeep Singh while heading to Tokyo. But choosing youth in the shootout backfired this time around.
This World Cup was a golden opportunity for Harmanpreet Singh and his team to build on the momentum gained in the Tokyo Olympics. But the team’s performances have been average post the Olympics. A drop in fitness levels was clearly visible as India did not even qualify for the quarter-finals.
India could win bronze at the 2021 Asian Champions Trophy -- their first event after the Tokyo Olympics. Though they finished a commendable third in the Pro League against the best nations in the world, they were humiliated in the final of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, losing 0-7 to Australia. They also lost four of the five matches in a series in Australia before coming into the World Cup in Odisha.
It is learnt that HI has contacted a couple of international coaches to take over the reins as the team needs to build up for the postponed Hangzhou Asian Games (23 September to 8 October) and the 2024 Paris Olympics. A decision on Reid’s successor is expected to be made in February.