The disorder in Indian men’s hockey took a new twist as a report published on Sunday suggested that sacked coach Harendra Singh was not allowed to select the team he wanted to for the World Cup in December, where India lost in the quarter-finals.
Harendra, who became the sixth coach to be sacked by Hockey India in as many years, has written a letter to the Sports Authority of India and Hockey India saying that the federation’s interference in selection affected the team, according to a report in the Indian Express.
India went into their home World Cup in Odisha playing a young team and lost in the quarter-finals to eventual runners-up Netherlands. The former coach reportedly wrote in the letter that he was forced to pick an inexperienced team because the “selection committee was not in favour of experienced players”.
Earlier this week, the Hockey India High Performance and Development Committee – comprising Chairman RP Singh, Harbinder Singh, BP Govinda and Syed Ali – decided to remove Harendra as coach, just eight months after he was given the job. Harendra has been asked to move back to his post of head coach of the junior men’s team.
The response from Harendra comes after the Hockey India’s high performance and development committee reportedly said they had given the coach “a free hand to select players for major tournaments”.
Harendra then alleged, in his letter, that he was asked to drop senior players Rupinderpal Singh, SV Sunil and Birendra Lakra from the World Cup squad after the selection trials in November. This demand came after the selectors had agreed to include the trio in the 18-member team, the report said. Sunil and Rupinderpal were eventually not named in the squad, while Lakra made the cut.
The report further suggested a complete breakdown of communication between the Indian selection committee and the coaching staff, especially over senior players.
Harendra took charge of the men’s team after it had returned medal-less from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. But he failed to turn around the fortunes as the team finished with a bronze at the Asian Games and failed to qualify directly for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
As coach of the India junior team, Harendra had won the 2016 World Cup and was credited for bringing out the best from the young players, which is one of the reasons he has been offered the job again.