March 20, 2008

Carvalho’s Post-mortem: Raising questions than giving answers

By H Natarajan

“The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses”, said the legendary Napoleon Hill, whose personal success mantras continues to inspire millions for several decades now.

Hill’s philosophy crossed my mind reading the litany of Joachim Carvalho’s excuses in the face of strong reactions in the country following India’s failed mission to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

Let’s examine the Indian coach’s reactions:

In a bylined article appearing in a prominent Mumbai daily, Carvalho wrote that India would have qualified for the Olympics “if the umpiring was not biased against us.” He beefed up his claims with a sensational broadside against the FIH, the international governing body for hockey, by claiming that “there was a discreet conspiracy by the FIH and Great Britain.”

Conspiracy is very strong word to use, especially against the apex body. It unambiguously questions the credibility of the FIH and leaves his outburst open to censure.

It’s not that Carvalho will be without supporters. Over the years, the game has been systematically tweaked around to suit the robust play of the white nations which enjoy physical superiority against physically less-endowed nations like India and Pakistan that rely more on their skills. But there is a difference between the common man and a national team coach making caustic and indiscriminate comments.

Carvalho goes on to add that, after the league match against Great Britain, three Indian players were called from their rooms at 11.00 pm and given a letter saying which said, “This is not the way you all should be playing. You are all international players. How can you play like this and we are warning you. You all will be severely pulled up in the final match.”

If the coach felt so strongly about the FIH and the umpiring the protest should have been prompt than procrastinated.

Carvalho says that the IHF action “psyched our main players” and says that “our boys had mentally lost the game even before going onto the field. They were totally shattered.” Are our players mentally so fragile? And even if they are, should a coach be saying such a thing in public that leaves the team vulnerable against rivals who would exploit that fraility in future matches?

The coach then compares the predicament of his team to that of the Indian cricket team that toured Australia recently. “The umpires killed our Test team in Australia. The Indian Cricket Board and the media supported them fully. Then, the ICC crumbled down,” Carvalho wrote in his column.

The fact is in sharp contrast to the BCCI, the IHF has not been seen as a player-friendly body. Many a promising career ended long before it should have because of the tyrannical and insensitive ways of the IHF – which, strictly speaking, means KPS Gill. So why is Carvalho not pointing a finger at the man who, an overwhelming majority believe, has been primarily responsible for Indian’s hockey precipitous decline?

If BCCI has put itself in a position of command against powerful nations like Australia and England it’s because successive administrations have built the board into a financial powerhouse. That has ensured that India is today to world cricket what the US is to world politics and economy.

The BCCI transformation did not come about overnight. And it came despite the politicking, intrigues and vast cultural diversity. In the case of the IHF it has been an authoritarian one-man rule which has neither been accountable to anybody nor shown any sense of urgency to arrest the systematic collapse of a game that the nation ruled the world for long. It’s the failure to acknowledge and accept the shortcomings that have seen the IHF stuck in a rut and the game in India sinking into the quicksand of death.

The reaction of Randhir Singh, the Secretary-General, of the Indian Olympic Association was painfully political. “It is a wake-up call, but what is the point of asking somebody to resign? By doing that India is not going to qualify for the Olympics. It is over now," he said. “A Jyothikumaran or a Gill is not responsible for the loss. The team did not play well (against Great Britain). I am not blaming the players, but we have to see why the team did not play well,” he added.

Wake-up call! The wake-up call has been ringing for years, Mr Randhir Singh. Alas, the people who should have done something about it have been in deep slumber – almost in a state of coma. And Randhir’s failure to pin the blame on the IHF top brass is symptomatic of sports governance that believes in all power and no accountability.

Carvalho’s blaming of the umpiring has not found support from his own countrymen with Kukoo Walia, an umpires’ manager of the FIH, and FIH Grade One umpire Virendra Bahadur both giving clean chits to the umpiring in question.

In sharp contrast to the coach, at least three players - Rajpal, Prabhjot and Baldeep – have publicly and graciously said that the team played badly against Great Britain and nobody else is to be blamed.

Indian hockey is ailing and the best man for the job is Dr Ric Charlesworth. It’s Indian hockey’s good fortune that Charlesworth, a player and coach of the highest order, has still made his services available after what he had to undergo. India cannot think of anybody with more proven credentials at the international level than the cerebral Australian. If Gill wants to reconstruct Indian hockey he has to not only get Charlesworth to coach the team but give him a free hand to do his job in a professional manner.

One does not have to wait long for that answer.


Post a Comment

<< Home