‘Changes in rules have been difficult’

Ric Charlesworth…“Working with players from other countries will be exciting, but the rush and the difficult schedule of the HIL will be very hard.”-R.V. MOORTHY

“Money is not an attraction for coaches,” says the legendary player and coach, Ric Charlesworth. By Nandakumar Marar.

Ric Charlesworth is back in India, this time as the chief coach of Mumbai Magicians in the Hockey India League.

The Australian faced unexpected problems while preparing his team for the HIL. He had to race against time to get Mumbai Magicians, comprising internationals from different nations, ready for the five-team competition, and also handle problems that were beyond his control, like the decision to send back the four Pakistani players in the wake of the political tensions between India and Pakistan.

A stickler for detail, and his obsession for long-term planning well known, it was not easy for Charlesworth. The Mumbai Magicians coach, however, took things in his stride. “This league has a chance to improve the game and (helps me to) avoid those who made my last experience (in India) difficult,” said the Australian, who had to return home after a bitter experience in India in 2008.

Charlesworth was the Technical Advisor for Indian hockey then. Based on his personal observations, he had prepared a blueprint for rebuilding Indian hockey. Treating coaches, players and others on contract as paid professionals was among the critical points in the document that he had prepared. However, the Indian Hockey Federation, the Sports Authority of India and other agencies involved in the running of the sport in the country at that time thought Charlesworth’s ideas were too radical and consequently dumped them.

Last year, Australia, coached by Charlesworth, won the bronze medal at the London Olympics, followed by the 2012 Champions Trophy in Melbourne.

On the invitation of the Dabur Group, the renowned Australian coach accepted the offer to take charge of their franchise in the HIL. The Mumbai Magicians coach has been guaranteed the freedom to execute his plans.

In his playing days, Charlesworth was regarded as a great playmaker and an inspiring captain of Australia. He is universally accepted as a master tactician and a coach under whom the ‘Hockeyroos’ played to win. He spoke to Sportstar recently on India hockey.

Question: Foreign coaches attached to various HIL teams bring different lines of thinking to the job. What excites you the most about this assignment? Is money the main attraction?

Answer: Working with players from other countries will be exciting, but the rush and the difficult schedule will be very hard. It is a pity the timing is so rushed. Money is not an attraction for coaches. I have to take leave from my job to do this.

India and Pakistan have a habit of entrusting their National squads to famous former players, who may or may not have coaching achievements to back them…

This occurs in all countries (former players as coaches). Some former players are good coaches, some not so good. If you do not coach well, your players will struggle to improve. This is the major task.

Cricket has a parallel here; Greg Chappell was a great batsman but was not successful as the coach of the Indian cricket team when compared with the low profile Gary Kirsten, who played a big role in India’s World Cup victory. What is your take?

India tends to measure results on short-term basis. Kirsten’s time here (with Team India) was short. If he were the coach now, what would be said? Every coach will struggle without being able to set the agenda and without any support.

India’s playing style comes close to Australia’s. How far will natural skills alone carry us without a method of training in place at different levels? Is that the biggest challenge before India’s chief coach Michael Nobbs now?

There are many challenges. You need to have the skill, organisation, endeavour, co-operation and knowledge — all are important. Besides these, the changes in rules have been difficult. Physical play is rewarded, and defending has been made easier.

Indian players are rated among the best in the world from time to time. Sardar Singh is a current example. Others have been playing as part-time pros in club leagues around Europe, where performance is paramount. However, when these players come together in the National squad, the results are below par…

India is, I believe, amongst teams between number six and 10 in the world. Its challenge is to get to the top five.