Harendra Singh removed as India hockey coach; offered charge of junior squad

Harendra Singh has been offered the responsibility of coaching the junior squad.

Harendra Singh was appointed as India men's hockey coach after India’s poor performance at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games iin 2018.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Hockey India Wednesday removed Harendra Singh from the position of India men's hockey coach citing a disappointing 2018 and has been offered the task of coaching the junior squad.

Constant chopping and changing of coaches has become a frequent phenomenon in Indian hockey and Harendra, who was appointed in May, is the latest casualty.

“Though the year 2018 was very disappointing for the Indian men’s hockey team with results not going as expected, Hockey India believes investing in the junior program which will reap long-term benefits,” Hockey India said in a statement explaining the reasons behind Harendra’s axing.

RELATED | Hockey World Cup 2018: How Harendra Singh is turning 16 individuals into a team

The Junior World Cup-winning coach took charge after India’s poor performance at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where it didn't win a medal, but was unable to change the team’s fortunes. India was also below-par in the Asian Games in Indonesia, settling for a bronze after going into the tournament as the defending champion. It ended the year with a quarterfinal loss in the World Cup in Bhubaneswar.

“Hockey India will shortly be advertising and will invite applications for the position of the Chief Coach of the Indian Men’s Hockey Team which will be returning to training camp in February 2019 for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup scheduled to commence from 23 March 2019.

“In the interim the team will be overseen by Hockey India High Performance Director, David John and current Analytical Coach, Chris Ciriello,” said Hockey India in a statement.

Harendra was known for his unconventional approach, like at half-time during India's match against Belgium in the Hockey World Cup. TV presenters, in an effort to get the coach to share the game plan while the match is in progress, mostly end up with cliff notes of the entire plot. Harendra, however, revealed he is fine with such questions and was ready with a comprehensive answer.

Read what he said | What's up with coach Harendra Singh giving the game away?

Last month, former India players including Merwyn Fernandes and M.M. Somaya and former coach Ric Charlesworth had backed Harendra to stay in the job despite India's World Cup exit.

READ | Former players back Harendra Singh despite quarterfinal loss

Backlash

The decision to reassign Harendra was taken by the Hockey India (HI) High Performance and Development Committee on Monday with an aim to build a “strong base” ahead of the 2021 Junior World Cup and the 2020 and 2024 Olympics. The meeting was attended by Committee Chairman R P Singh, members including Olympians Harbinder Singh, B P Govinda and Syed Ali.

“The offer (of junior head coach) has been made to Harendra Singh for taking charge of the Junior Men’s team commencing from the camp slated to start in March 2019,” HI said.

Harendra took the junior team to the World Cup title in 2016. As women’s chief coach, he had swapped places with Dutchman Sjoerd Marijne to join the men’s squad ahead of the August-September Asian Games.

India’s practice of firing coaches at regular intervals has been criticised by many experts of the game.

“It is completely unprofessional from Hockey India. With less than two years to go for the Olympics, this is the last thing India needed. But seeing the trend (of changing coaches frequently) it is not a surprise anymore. You can’t expect the team to win like this,” former India captain Zafar Iqbal told PTI.

“Even Germany lost in the semi-finals but that doesn’t mean their team was bad,” said Iqbal.

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