In a surprise move, women’s hockey coach Harendra Singh was on Monday named Chief Coach of the Indian men’s team while incumbent men’s in-charge Sjoerd Marijne was sent back to the women’s camp – a fallout of the poor show by Manpreet Singh and Co in the Commonwealth Games.

The move has left many in the Indian hockey fraternity bemused as the national body could have had the same arrangement last year.

Harendra, who was on the support staff of the Indian men’s team earlier from 2009 to 2011, was in-charge of the women’s team since November last year after Marijne was named as the men’s coach, replacing the sacked Roelant Oltmans.

“Strange are the workings of Hockey India. No one knows how they function,” said Joaquim Carvalho, former men’s hockey coach. “They should have made this decision of making Harendra coach after he won us the Junior World Cup. Why did they wait for so long? Harendra knows all the players plus he is a brilliant coach as we know,” he added.

Under the guidance of Harendra, who led the Indian junior men’s hockey team to the World Cup title in 2016, the Indian women’s team finished an impressive fourth at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. His most important contribution was leading the women’s team to the ninth women’s Asia Cup title in Japan last year.

However, with higher expectations, the men’s team under the tutelage of Marijne ended a disappointing fourth in Gold Coast, returning without a medal for the first time since the 2006 CWG.

‘Player-friendly decision’

Most of the former players are confident Harendra will be able to pick up things easily as he has prior experience with the national team and is also aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the junior team.

“I think the decision was taken keeping in mind the requirement of the players,” said MK Kaushik, former hockey player, who has coached both women’s and men’s team. “Harendra knows everything about every player plus he knows the working of Hockey India. He won India the junior World Cup. Marijne on the other hand will go back to the women’s team where he was originally,” he added.

Kaushik, though, remained wary of the swap considering the proximity to high-profile tournaments like the Asian games and World Cup.

“Ideally Hockey India should have waited before making this switch because time is less keeping in mind the Asian Games and World Cup,” Kaushik said. “However, know both coaches have to make do with what they have. Ideally both should be targeting the Asian Games.”

According to former India captain Dhanraj Pillai, the change augurs well for the men’s team as it he believes an Indian coach is best suited for the national team.

“I have always stood by the statement that Indian coaches make the best coaches for India,” Pillai said. “This decision should have been taken when Oltmans was sacked and not now. However, seven months is enough for Harendra to work with the players. Plus Indian players are comfortable with Indian coaches,” he added.

Women’s team short-changed

While the stalwarts believe, the swap of coaches might favour the men’s team, they however, are not convinced that Marijne’s return to the women’s camp will help the side succeed.

“This is a good decision end of the day for the men’s team. However, the women’s team are missing out,” said Carvalho.

“Marijne isn’t a good coach. Now he goes back to the team he was originally brought in to coach. They should have sacked him rather than sending him back to the women’s team. When he hasn’t performed well with the men’s what do you think will happen to the women’s team?” he wondered.

With inputs from PTI