Charlesworth is the man

On top of the world...Jamie Dwyer with the World Cup at the Major Dhyanchand Stadium in New Delhi. The Australian captain was named the FIH Player of the Year.-PTI

The year 2010 will be remembered for the dominance of Australian men and Argentine women. By S. Thyagarajan.

Eventful as always and exhilarating throughout, competitive hockey coursed through an incandescent phase and into history, engulfing the enthusiasts in an emotional melange.

Two World Championships and an equal number of Champion Trophy tournaments, the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games, the Youth Olympics and a plethora of internationals across the globe give the 2010 season a euphoric aura.

Sifting through this panorama to identify the high points of the year is not easy. Suffice to say the material available is stupendous by any yardstick. On reflection, it can be said without any fear of contradiction that 2010 was a year to remember for the Australian men and Argentine women.

Quite understandably, the man of the year award, if there is one, should indisputably go to the Aussie stalwart, Ric Charlesworth. The Australian Institute of Sports in Perth only honoured itself by conferring that title on the Champion coach, who guided the Aussies to a glorious treble — the World Cup (Delhi), Champions Trophy (Monchengladbach) and Commonwealth Games (Delhi). Incidentally, Australia's victory in the Commonwealth Games was its third gold in succession.

Blessed as Charlesworth was with the depth and diversity of talent — the players were spotted, nurtured and groomed for the big occasions — the achievements of the Australian men in 2010 stand apart. They showed the intensity of professionalism, the importance of dedication and the determination to succeed at all costs. In this, the Aussies were chiefly guided by the craft, class and consistency of the incomparable all-rounder, Jamie Dwyer, who deservedly claimed the FIH's Best Player of the Year Award for 2010.

It must also be acknowledged that Dwyer in his endeavour was supported well by Luke Doerner, Desmond Abbott, Glenn Turner, Christopher Ciriello and, of course, goalkeeper, Nathan Burges.

There was no team either in Europe or Asia that could match Australia. The team's dominance is better illustrated by six victories in a row in the Champions Trophy in Monchengladbach.

On the distaff side, Argentina held the centre stage. Brushing aside the challenge of the traditional powerhouse, the Netherlands, Argentina claimed the Champions Trophy in Nottingham. It then proved its calibre by beating the same Dutch side in the final of the World Cup in Rosario. The star of Argentina was the glamorous Luciana Aiymar, who was declared the Player of the Year again by the FIH.

Hockey in Asia had a mixture of good, bad and ugly — ugly especially involving the administrations in India and Pakistan.

Despite its four successive defeats against India during the year, Pakistan salvaged a lot of its pride by regaining the Asian Games gold medal in Guangzhou. The return of Sohail Abbas proved a blessing for Pakistan as much as the gains it had from the coaching of the Dutchman, Michel van Heuven.

Murky scenes and court hearings notwithstanding, India had a reasonably good year, winning the silver medal in the Commonwealth Games, the bronze in the Asian Games and sharing the trophy with South Korea in the Azlan Shah tournament.

True, these achievements did nothing to enhance the profile of the national team but they definitely indicated the improvement made under the Spanish coach, Jose Brasa.

Constantly hunted and humiliated, Brasa bore everything that the officialdom hurled at him with equanimity. He was bent on showing some results. The fact that he never had anything his way was more than clear to everybody. Yet, he worked sincerely. It is a pity that the Spaniard went back without fulfilling his goal.

The statistics accompanying the article throws light on what Indian hockey did during 2010.

Sandeep Singh, who slammed 11 goals in the Asian Games, and Rani Ramphal, whose tally of eight goals in the World Cup earned her a nomination for the Young Player of the Year Award, dominated the scoring.

Bedevilled by one controversy or the other, the Indian hockey administration suffered a serious confidence crisis. It got caught in the crossfire between the Sports Ministry and the Indian Olympic Association on too many issues. That the FIH added to the confusion cannot go unsaid.

As if these weren't enough, there was the abominable charge against the seasoned coach, M. L. Kasushik, who was accused of misbehaving with some of the players in the women's team. The episode needs no detailed introspection and should be dismissed as unholy and unwarranted.

Following this incident, Sandeep Somesh was put in charge of the women's team. With little time to comprehend what he had inherited, Sandeep had to wade through many uncertainties.

If India failed to retain the bronze medal in Guangzhou after claiming one in the first ever Asian Champions Trophy in Seoul, Sandeep should be the last man to be blamed.

As another season is set to dawn, it goes without saying that a lot of thinking needs be done while reorganising the men's and women's teams. The coaching staff too needs to be restructured.

Whoever eventually comes to clean the stables has a stupendous task on his hands.