Soon after the Commonwealth Games debacle, members of the men’s team were spoken to and their views sought about what went wrong in Gold Coast. It now emerges that the players were sounded off about the change of coach before it was announced.
The women, on the other hand, had no clue about what was in store for them till Hockey India sent out a release announcing that Sjoerd Marijne would go back to coaching the team he was first hired for with the current women’s team coach Harendra Singh being elevated to handle the ‘more prestigious’ men’s team.
The situation is not too dissimilar from when Marijne was moved to the men’s team in September last year with hardly anyone in the team taken into confidence despite the team making considerable progress first under Neil Hagwood and then with the Dutchman before Harendra was suddenly given the charge.
More than the changes made, the manner in which the women’s team is being treated by the authorities despite the considerable progress they have made over the years is baffling to say the least. And though none of them would say it out loud, they definitely feel short changed with the entire drama that was enacted on Tuesday.
Harendra had just over an month to prepare the women for the Asian Cup, which they went on to win, last year and Marijne will have 80 days to prepare the team for the World Cup which starts on July 21.
And what makes things all the more baffling is that unlike their male counterparts, the women never sought a change. Instead, the changes were forced upon them because Hockey India felt that the men’s team was to be given priority at every stage of decision making.
When contacted, goalkeeper Savita Punia tried to overlook the obvious step-motherly treatment and expressed satisfaction that the coach swap has at least ensured that the players don’t have to start the process of understanding the coach’s philosophy from scratch.
“When Marijne sir left us to join the men’s team, he said that it was going to be challenge for him. We have played under him previously and we did well. Yes, our game has improved under Harendra sir as well no doubt. But all these things are not in our hands,” said women’s goalkeeper Savita Punia.
“There would have been a problem if a new coach was appointed because we would have to understand his way of working but with Marijne, we already know how he functions. Ultimately it is up to the players to perform on the field and not the coaches. They can only guide us, but we have to make the play on the field,” said Punia.
Former India skipper and now selector Saba Anjum was more forthcoming when she said that even the selectors and those involved in women’s team had no role to play in Hockey India’s decision.
“This is Hockey India’s decision and we cannot do anything about it. They must be observing Marijne and giving him a second chance. No doubt Harendra did a brilliant job with the women’s team but everyone is experienced enough and understands what needs to be done,” she said.
So by appointing Marijne back, does the women’s team stand to lose?
“The girls have been playing together for a long time. The coach will probably work on their fitness and a few technical aspects of the game. He won’t make any major change because there is no time,” said Anjum.
But unlike the coach, Hockey India had decided to make wholesome changes at the whims and fancies of the federation bosses and the women have no choice but to adapt and adjust since the federation clearly doesn’t care enough about giving them their due.