Ric Charlesworth confident of India’s resurgence in hockey

The Asian Games debacle was viewed as a temporary setback to the resurgence of Indian hockey by one of its biggest admirers, Ric Charlesworth.

Ric Charlesworth in New Delhi.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

The Asian Games debacle was viewed as a temporary setback to the resurgence of Indian hockey by one of its biggest admirers, Ric Charlesworth.

The Indian system may not have suited a professional like Charlesworth as the Aussie quit in controversial circumstances a long time ago, from running the game in the country. But, that has not discouraged him from admiring the Indian skill and the pool of talent.

Sober and mellowed over the years, the 66-year-old Charlesworth, a doctor and a multi-faceted personality, was pretty honest in saying that it would be impossible now to play cricket and hockey, the way he had done in his prime.

“I was not good enough,’’ he said when queried about not representing the country in Test cricket, a graduation from the first-class cricket that he played.

“I used to play cricket in the summer,’’ he recalled.

Hockey, invariably, was his first love and it continues to be so. Charlesworth was candid in admitting that the Hockey India League (HIL) was the game changer, especially for the Indian players.

“HIL has to get up and run again. It gave the exposure for the Indian players to compete regularly along with the players from other countries,’’ said Charlesworth, in the National Capital as one of four legends for Royal Stag Perfect Strokes.

Quite convinced that the Indian teams, both men and women, were on the right track, especially under the coaching leadership of Harendra Singh, Charlesworth felt that it was a team of coaches and professionals who would be able to help India achieve its dream of regaining lost glory.

“India was unbeatable when we were playing’’, he remembered distinctly about the power of India as well as Pakistan.

Adapting to changing technology and the modern methods, both the Indian men’s and women’s hockey has convinced Charlesworth that it was a matter of time for the teams to strike the medals on the big stage.

The future of world hockey is directly linked to the health of Indian hockey, as Charlesworth candidly points out “1.2 billion pairs of eye balls’’, as a powerful support for the game in the eyes of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Even though he is not convinced about some of the rules, Charlesworth felt that the penalty shoot-out to break the tie that has been practised for some years, with the attacker getting eight seconds to score a goal and the goalkeeper being allowed to move, "is a better test’’ than the penalty strokes.

It just makes the game more interesting, even if it backfired for India in the Asian Games semifinals against Malaysia.

From lacking confidence at the international level, to being ‘overconfident’, Indian hockey has indeed come a long way. It promises to reap the rewards for years of perseverance in the near future.