Sreejesh: ‘Almost everyone in our team has trained under Harendra’

Harendra, who was coaching the women's side, was given charge of the men's unit after India's poor Commonwealth Games showing, while Sjoerd Marijne went the other way.

Harendra Singh's (right) appointment brought advantages, P.R. Sreejesh felt.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Harendra Singh may be the Indian men's hockey team's third coach in the space of nine months, but players will have no trouble adapting to his methods, believes P.R. Sreejesh. Harendra, who was coaching the women's side, was given charge of the men's unit after India's poor Commonwealth Games showing, while Sjoerd Marijne went the other way.

“Almost everyone in our team has trained under Harendra sir at some point in his life. I've known him for the last 14 years. Everyone knows what he wants. It's easy to adjust to a homely atmosphere,” said Sreejesh, who has been named captain till the end of the year, at the SAI here on Tuesday.

Harendra's appointment brought advantages, Sreejesh felt. “The first thing is language – there is no need for translation. If there is a mistake on the field, it's quite easy for us to discuss it. The second thing is how he makes players comfortable. Everyone feels free to discuss things and accept their mistakes. That's the change...the process of improving as a team.”

There had been murmurs of disagreement over Marijne's ‘player-driven’ approach during his exit from the role. Sreejesh made it clear that he was not enamoured with that idea.

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“In India, all players are used to following their teachers from childhood. That's how our culture is. That's how we have grown up. I used to ask my father before doing anything major in my life – I follow that even now, though I'm over 30. A coach can show me where I have to walk and then I will ask him where I can improve. That's how the system has to be. If he draws a picture, I can help him colour it, so it looks better. He can't ask me to draw a picture and say he will colour it. He should have an idea of how we are going to play and we can help him make it beautiful,” he said.

The veteran goalkeeper made no excuses for the team's CWG performance, though. “There are a lot of people I can criticize if I want to. However, us players should take responsibility. On the field, it's not the coaches or the support staff, or the federation who play,” he said.

What was the difference between Marijne and Harendra, Sreejesh was asked? “Sjoerd used to eat a lot of cheese and Harendra sir eats chawal (rice) and dal. Every coach has his own style. He (Harendra) knows the perfect Indian style and what we are capable of,” he quipped.

India needed more home-grown coaches, Sreejesh felt. “We should develop our own coaches, that's for sure. We need to produce quality players at the grassroots level. We lack that nowadays in India.”