February 23, 2020
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'We Need Full-Time Professionals'

Critical of the Gill-Jothikumaran regime, the country's only World Cup winning captain says, 'You cannot get good results with people who may have done well in other fields.'

'We Need Full-Time Professionals'
With India continuing to lag behind in hockey, the country's only World Cup winning captain Ajit Pal Singh feels roping in an Australian coach for the national squad could raise the falling standards.

"Why shouldn't we go for foreign coaches? Though we have tried many Indian coaches, they've not been that successful," said the 60-year old Ajit Pal, who led the nation to its only World Cup title at Kuala Lumpur in 1975.

However, the master of the game was opposed to importing coaches from countries like the Netherlands or Germany.

"Bringing coaches from these countries won't help, because of the language barrier. We should go for Australian coaches. They speak English. So it's easier for our players to communicate with them," Ajit Pal, one of the finest centre halfs India has ever produced, said in an interview.

Ajit Pal, a key member in the hockey teams of 1971, '72 and '73, said the high-profile PHL provided good entertainment, but it was hamstrung by the lack of competitive edge.

"The teams are mixed. A team may have some players from Orissa, some from another state. So, the competitive spirit is missing. Players don't feel motivated enough," he said.

Ajit Pal was also critical of the way the Indian Hockey Federation was running the game.

"You cannot get good results with people who may have done well in other fields," said the hockey legend, in an indirect reference to IHF president K P S Gill.

Critical of the Gill-Jothikumaran (current IHF secretary) regime, the Arjuna Awardee said except for a couple of trophies like the 1998 Asian Games gold and the Junior World Cup title, the nation had not achieved much success under them.

"Where are we in Champions Trophy, the Olympics or the World Cup? We only have won the Azlan Shah tournament. Nowadays, we even have trouble qualifying for the Olympics."

Ajit Pal, who represented India in 1960s and 70's and was known for his fine sense of distribution, dexterity and skill on the field, alleged that the game was not being marketed properly.

"To develop hockey, you need full-time professionals in charge of matters like marketing."

He also rapped the IHF for not utilising the services of former stars. But he hastened to add "Or may be, they (former internationals) don't have time".

However, he parried a query on how the current national coach Joacquim Carvalho was faring. "He must be doing his job. I Hope we can qualify for the Olympics. I wish him well," he said, in a diplomatic response.

Ajit Pal also rued the inadequate number of astro-turfs in the country.

"Small European countries have astro-turfs in every district. But in our country, sufficient numbers (of the artificial surface) are not there. England has astro-turfs even in schools. But in India, players get astro-turf only when they play in national level tournaments," he said.


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