David John, the High Performance Director of Hockey India, has been in the city for the last few days, watching the ongoing senior National men’s championship B division to tap possible exciting talent.
Excerpts from an interview:
On the standard of hockey
Some of the group matches in the B division were sub-standard, but in the knock-outs, the quality was excellent. The level of coaching hasn’t improved in the last two years. For the players to improve, coaching has to improve. I just completed conceptualising a Level I and II coaching accreditation [course], which should start rolling out probably in April.
On the criticism of B division
Forty-one teams are too many. Perhaps, next year we should consider a third [C] division. Hockey India will address it next year.
It’s been nearly 15 years since a Tamil Nadu player has represented India...
Physically, they are much stronger. Physicality is not the reason. The TN team plays a slow, controlled game. I saw talent in the team, they just need an opportunity.
Till the Olympics, there aren’t many international tournaments for the Indian men’s team due to the FIH Pro League, in which the country has decided not to take part...
It’s a problem because we have to come up with a calendar. We’re having to play teams like Canada, South Africa, the Asian teams, over and over.
So how do you address it?
In terms of domestic hockey, we’ll try and open the window to allow all our national players to play important domestic tournaments. But also I have to be aware that when they go back to play domestic matches, they don’t get recovery time. They’re not rotated properly so they’re not getting rest during matches. The structure of their play isn’t what we play internationally.
How would you bridge this quality gap?
At the moment, it’s difficult. But Indians can play leagues abroad as long as they doesn’t clash with our international schedule. We play our next international matches at Sultan Azlan Shah in March. Then, we have our Open Final series here, which is important, because the top two go to the qualification round. From June through November, there’s a gap. For me, personally, I’ll be happy if some of our seniors go and play in another country and get exposure. But even the domestic competitions in those countries have been affected by the Pro League. We’ll go to Japan in August-September. Then we have to wait till November to find out who our opponent is going to be for the Olympic qualifier.
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