This piece was published in Sportskeeda
The formal exit of Indian men’s hockey team coach Terry Walsh has left hockey fans across the country sad and frustrated. But there is a ‘ray of hope’ for the 60-year-old Australian to return as a national coach, as the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in conjunction with the Sports Ministry is working out a new contract for him. The picture will be clear over the week or so once Walsh responds to the new contract.
With barely two weeks to go for the Champions Trophy, a crisis-like situation has engulfed Indian hockey after the highs the national team scaled beating world champions Australia 3-1 in the four Test series, even pulling off three consecutive wins after losing the opening Test. Under Walsh as coach, the national team won the team’s first Asiad gold in sixteen years, which secured them a berth to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Terry Walsh talks about various issues in an exclusive interview hours before leaving for Perth.
Q. Some much has been said about the talks you had with the committee as well as your meeting with Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Where does things stand as of now?
Well, I had fruitful discussions with the six-member as well as the Sports Minister. They gave me a patient hearing on various things I’m keen to implement to take Indian hockey forward. Wednesday was my last day as India coach as my contract expired on November 19, but the SAI and the Sports Ministry are hammering out a new contract over the next few days, which I will look into it and respond promptly.
Q. So are you saying that you will return to India as national coach once the new contract is sent to you?
I’m not saying anything. Let me get the new contract first and once I get I will respond at the earliest.
Q. It is believed that your new contract includes many of your suggestions. Can you elaborate?
I’m sorry but I can’t reveal anything about it.
Q. Do you think that the changes you want to see in the way hockey is run in India can be addressed at a fast pace?
Absolutely. All I’m asking for is an effective process which will ensure the national team does well and also paves the way for a healthy future. I’m not asking anything with some personal interest, only want things to happen in such a way as it happens in most other hockey-playing countries. For example, our team spends hours on bus travelling to and from the Stadium, something we can do away with. Again we can have players being informed about national camp at least two weeks in advance – these are not really difficult things to implement – everything I have suggested is for the betterment of Indian hockey.
Q. Hockey India President Narender Batra has alleged that you have indulging in financial impropriety during your stint as USA women’s hockey team coach. How do you respond?
Well, there is no truth in it. I have never indulged in financial impropriety and the USA hockey team is a non-issue as far as I’m concerned. I spoke to Batra over phone and clarified everything and I don’t think it is an issue at all.
Q. Is it fair to say that relations between you and Narender Batra are strained?
Don’t think so. As I said before, I had a cordial telephonic talk with Batra and there is no bad blood between us. I don’t see any hindrance working with him in future if at all I’m associated with Indian hockey.
Q. The Champions Trophy is just barely two weeks away. Don’t you think it’s a crisis situation for the national team?
The Indian team will be fine without me. There is a process in place and it will take care of everything. For example, if Sardar Singh is injured Manpreet Singh will cover up for him, similarly in my case somebody else will step in.
Q. The Indian players must be downcast at the turn of events as the team was gelling as a unit under you as coach, winning the Asian Games, besides a silver in the Commonwealth Games and the Test series in Australia.
Well, you have to ask the players and they know better. I can’t comment.
Q. India’s win over Australia in the four Test series must have been hugely pleasing for you. Your thoughts.
The boys turned in a superb effort in Australia. The performance of the team was beyond my expectations as beating Australia in their own backyard is never easy. I hope they will take a lot of confidence from that series win going into the Champions Trophy.
Q. Finally, is there any chance of you returning as national coach with a fresh contract so that you are available for the Champions Trophy?
You have to wait and see. I’m not saying anything (grins).