For Indian hockey to capitalise on the gains made in the past decade, the national federation must revive the “revolutionary” Hockey India League, feels legendary Australian coach Ric Charlesworth.
Charlesworth, who has worked with Indian hockey as the men’s and women’s teams’ Technical Advisor for four months in 2008, is a widely respected coach around the world.
“I think India have been making steady progress. A decade ago, they were 10th in the world, now realistically 5th. My view always was that it would take a decade to climb into the medal positions,” the 66-year-old told agencies in an interview.
“But I am not sure the domestic competition is deep enough in India. India need to get the Hockey India League (HIL) going. That’s been the principal reason for the change,” he said.
“India is playing in this tournament without Sardar (Singh), Rupinder (Pal Singh), SV Sunil and they still have a good team. India now has more depth,” added Charlesworth on the sidelines of the ongoing men’s hockey World Cup.
The cash-rich HIL’s future looked uncertain when Hockey India postponed the 2018 edition because of financial issues. Some of the franchises threatened to withdraw claiming financial losses in the five seasons it played out.
However, Hockey India plans to bring back a revamped version of HIL next year in a fast-paced five-a-side format.
Charlesworth, who has also played cricket at the first-class level for Western Australia besides serving as the High Performance Manager of New Zealand Cricket in the past, said Indian hockey will find it difficult to sustain the rise without HIL.
“The Hockey India League made a big difference. It played an important role in the re-development of hockey in India,” he said.
Just like other sports, hockey is also looking to market itself better. But Charlesworth is against the idea of corporates driving the sport.
“Lots of the decisions are made because of money and it’s pretty unfortunate,” he said without specifying what exactly he found unfortunate.
“I am worried that there are gladiators in the arena now. Some of the decisions that are now made are not made for sports but for the sponsors and I think that’s a great danger,” he signed off.