Ever since news broke of men's chief coach Harendra Singh being 'demoted' to the coach of the junior Indian hockey team, there have been allegations and counter-allegations on the decision. On Thursday, the man himself broke his silence, speaking to Sportstar for the first time on a variety of issues and expressing his disappointment at the sequence of events.
A lot is being said about the team's performance and your own role in the last few months. Your take on it all?
Honestly, I am not surprised or angry, I am only disappointed with the way it panned out. Ideally, the federation could have called me during the High Performance Committee (HPC) meeting, asked me what I had to say and then if they wanted they could have simply said 'we are not keen on continuing with your services'.
On my first day in charge I told the boys, 'the countdown to my days as coach has begun. Coaches like me will keep coming and going but my only target is to go out with some achievement. Our targets have to be high, we cannot be satisfied with whatever we get and move on.' I also said that all the 24-25 coaches in the last 20 years were not bad so the players also now have to take the onus and be stakeholders for results and performance.
Hockey India has claimed you lack the skills or strategising ability at the highest level and unable to enforce discipline in the team.
This is what has hurt me most. You have put a black spot on my 19 years of coaching and cited my strengths and USP as my drawback! This is also one of the reasons I was forced to send a point-by-point rebuttal to the decision.
If I accept this statement today then the four people who decided this – people who have either never been a coach or if they did, have not achieved anything – have questioned my very existence as a coach. Discipline, absence of regionalism and groupism, awareness of modern techniques and skills and strategy are areas I am proud of and no one can point a finger at me on these aspects.
It is being alleged that Indian coaches cannot handle Indian players and you could not handle the team well.
I don't agree. The entire team was following in all the games what was being decided in the dressing room and meetings, no player acted or played an individual game. I deny this charge completely. As the chief coach, I am proud they did what was decided. As for the issue of last-minute errors, that is part of decision-making, not indiscipline and that comes from education. Education is not what we study in textbooks – it includes socialising, your surroundings and their involvement in the decision-making process. I have repeatedly stressed on these.
What would you say on the charge that groups were forming in the side?
Baseless. Entire Hockey India was present during the World Cup. The media would be present at all training sessions. Did anyone notice anything? I am not always right, maybe I missed it. But people from the HPC were also there – RP Singh, BP Govinda – if anyone felt this at any point, why did no one point it out? Why did no one say, 'Harendra, we have to talk about this?' There can be any number of allegations to justify a decision without proof.