Hockey World Cup 2018: Indian coach is good for the team, says Sardar Singh

Former India hockey team midfielder believes that the an Indian coach in the dressing room will help avoid the communication gap the players face under foreign coaches.

Sardar Singh announced his retirement from international hockey in September, 2018 after the Indian team finished with a bronze medal at the Asian Games 2018.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

India hockey team, under head coach Harendra Singh, got off to a steady start in the Hockey World Cup 2018--beating South Africa 5-0 in the opener, followed by a 2-2 draw against Olympic silver medallist Belgium.

As the team hopes to secure a place in the quarterfinals with a big victory over Canada on Saturday, former India captain, Sardar Singh, believes that the team’s ultimate challenge will be in the last-eight stage.

“In the quarters, it will not just be about (PR) Sreejesh, Manpreet (Singh). We need to play as a complete unit and play to our potential. Only performances by two or three players won’t help on that day. There are four quarters and we have to fully concentrate in each of them. If we can do that, we have a fair chance,” Sardar, who has signed up with preventive healthcare company, GoQii, said on Thursday.

“The start has been good. In a tournament like this, Belgium, Holland, Argentina, Australia are some of the best teams. We need to keep the momentum going. The tournaments like the World Cup or Olympics come once in four years, so the players know the value of such matches and how every second counts,” he said, adding: “These (moments) will not come back.”

Sardar, who retired from international hockey a couple of months ago, also rates India’s coach, Harendra Singh, as ‘one of the best in the world’. “Over the last 10 years, he has grown immensely as a coach. When he was with the women’s team or the junior team, he had enjoyed success. He (understands the mindset) of the team pretty well,” Sardar said.

Sardar, who has 314 international caps to his name, has seen ‘at least 10-15’ coaches and bats for an Indian coach at the helm of affairs.

“No matter what we say, there is a bit of communication gap. In the team meeting, some players from the core group of 32-35, only understand Hindi and there are only a handful who can understand all the languages--English, Hindi. In a team game, if the players can’t understand your strategy, then you can’t get into the proper mindset. That’s a key thing,” he said.

“When the foreign coaches were around, an hour-long team meeting had to be extended further as the Indian coaches had to explain the players what the coach wants all over again. Because, many could not understand the language. When the Indians are coaches, things are fine,” he explained.

For a team to succeed, it is also important for a coach to make the players understand their roles. “A new coach has different strategy and the mindset is different from others. The Europeans focus on defensive game, the Holland and Australian coaches go on the attacking mode. As a player, it is important to settle down but if you play with a coach you know, it is easy to communicate. If you keep changing coaches, it becomes difficult for players to cope with it,” he explained.

Sardar also disagrees with the criticism of India’s custodian P.R. Sreejesh slowing down.

“If we see the Champions Trophy, Sreejesh bagged the player of the tournament award. He is one of the best in the world. Experience matters a lot,” he said.

The former midfielder, who announced his retirement in September, after 12 years of international hockey, plans to set up an academy in Haryana and also wants to continue playing at the European League circuit for a couple of years more.