‘The four quarters’ rule in hockey suits our style’

A former hockey player, V Baskaran’s biggest moment in the game was when he led the Indian team to a gold medal in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Since then, India has not been able to win a gold medal in field hockey in Summer Olympics. Post his retirement, he has mentored many players and has been the coach of the national side.

Former hockey player, V Baskaran.   -  M. Periasamy

A former hockey player, V Baskaran’s biggest moment in the game was when he led the Indian team to a gold medal in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Since then, India has not been able to win a gold medal in field hockey in Summer Olympics. Post his retirement, he has mentored many players and has been the coach of the national side. In 2014, he was appointed as the High Performance Manager of the side. Gracing the Sportstarlive launch at the Madras Cricket Club on Sunday evening, Baskaran spoke about the long relationship with the magazine, being a sports person in India and the nation’s chances at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Your impression about Sportstar.

It is a long history. I cannot be answering it in one word. I have been associated with sports in Tamil Nadu for a very long time. Those days there was always one column for collegiate, weekly, and since I was in Loyola, I used to get featured. One week I would get athlete coverage and another week hockey. Later on, it was more of hockey. Hockey at that time was 20 per cent more popular than cricket. Sportstar in the past used to exclusively cover hockey because I still have the cuttings, about four to five pages. I have been part of the Sportstar in the 70s, 80s, 90s and even now. Even last year I have got cutting when the Tamil Nadu Sports Journalists Association was inaugurated. I still associate myself with them.

What is the best thing about being a sportsperson in India?

Most important is that we get recognition. Even now when I go for walking, there are people who walk past me who ask me whether I am the same Baskaran or not. I go to lot of schools and colleges and talk about different sports and people do recognise and relate. Sport taught me to be disciplined, how to be very friendly and most importantly it taught me how to be a good human being. Sport taught me to be simple.

What has the game given you?

Apart from recognition, it gave me a lift in my job. Later on, it was about leaving the game and becoming a coach, which was another important thing which got me into the limelight. I am very happy that I have done something in hockey, not only as a player but as a coach too, and produced players such as Dilip Tirkey and Sameer Dad. I was with Sardara Singh for two years during juniors, and up to 2014 I was in the national team. My passion is coaching. If you tell me to coach four years boys, I will do that too. I think being in touch with the game is very important to me.

What goes into the making of a good coach?

I think it is a good question. Many people say a good player cannot make a good coach but I think a good player needs to know how to coach with lot of passion. In India, coaching is different. When you talk about Australia, Germany and all, coaching is a profession. Indian coaches cannot be professional at all. If you talk about the present coach, Roelant Oltmans, wakes up in the morning, talks about the team game in the laptop and ends and sleeps with the laptop. When I was with the Railways as a coach, I used to get leave and attend to the Indian team. So I prepared only a week before. I had my problems too. If I was a professional, then I would have been a great success. In Australia and Germany the system is different. You become a junior coach and then the senior coach. The adaptation is different. I learnt all that as a coach and it gave me everything.

What are the team’s chances at the Rio Olympics?

We need a break. Let’s not go overbroad and say we will win a bronze or silver. We have qualified which is very good. We have enough time; the team is undergoing good preparation. India is the first team to qualify. Other teams have just qualified. We are at No. 8 now. We need to be somewhere around 4 or 5 because Belgium is slowly pushing Germany out of No. 3 in the rankings so Netherlands will be facing the heat too. So there is high competition between Netherlands, Australia, Germany and Belgium. The next tier belongs to India and England. It will depend upon how consistent you are and India is one teams which is feared most but at the same time they are beatable. This is mainly due to the new rule of four quarters. The Olympics will be a tough tournament. The Indian team should not feel the pressure and I think this new rule of four quarters suits India. We need to take advantage of this rule and I see them in the top five, if not higher up.