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December 24, 1999


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Policy changes

Cedric D'Souza

One has become aware of the list of players selected by the Indian Hockey Federation for the training camp, presently being held at Jammu, in preparation for the four-nation tournament in Spain from January 5 to 9, 2000. The tournament features India, Spain, Germany and Canada.

Jammu was selected as the venue for the camp basically because the team will come up against similar conditions in Europe. Thus, the idea of simulating the conditions and acclimatization prior to the team's departure would realistically be considered sound thinking. However, the decision once again brings to light the IHF's inconsistency in their policy decisions.

In the past, if memory serves me right, the doctor attached to the team (who incidentally was also the fitness expert) was basically instrumental in choosing the venue for camps (by emphatically voicing his opinion through the coach). His basic theory was that the team should be training in places where it could get maximum time utilization, and not at places where training time was curtailed, even if it had conditions similar to what the team was likely to face during the tournament. For him acclimatization time was sufficient if the team proceeded to the tournament five-days prior to the first match. Thus, this procedure was adopted and followed.

But it seems that the IHF has reverted to its old thinking and gone for a venue (Jammu) similar to the tournament conditions, thereby curtailing training time. It is common knowledge that the weather will not be conducive to train seven hours a day, i.e. train twice a day - once in the morning and once in the evening. In Jammu, it will be far too cold to train in the early morning and with the days shorter, the only training time would be between 1000 to 1600 hours. This would mean that training would be only once a day.

Now, if the camp was held in Bangalore or Chennai, then it would be possible for the team to practice twice a day, thereby allowing ample time to iron out the problems and deficiencies that the team faced during the Asia Cup. And, for acclimatization, the team could leave five days prior to the first match. The IHF's inconsistent policy decisions will once again give room for controversy, especially if the team does not perform well in the upcoming four-nation tournament.

There's another controversy which I feel should be addressed. It is regarding the mandatory participation of all the probables at camps. It is learnt that some of the players have not turned up for the ongoing camp. Instead, they have opted to participate in the All India Police Games which are on in Delhi. Isn't this shocking? If the concerned players have not sought the IHF's permission to skip the camp, then it amounts to the fact that they are not interested in playing for the country. At the same time, if the concerned players have been allowed by the IHF to skip the camp, then does it not amount to the fact that some officials are placing institution interest over national interest?

We all know that the president of the IHF is a high-ranking police official, but that does not mean rules can be bent to suit one's whims and fancies. Maybe, the IHF has sanctioned permission for the players to report to the camp late. But if that's the case then similar permission should have been given to other players whose teams are at the moment participating in the All India Ramesh Chander memorial tournament in Jalandhar. Won't these teams feel deprived of having to play without their best players? After all, what is good for one should be good for all. Does this not give the impression that some teams are getting preferential treatment? Isn't it just plain commonsense that those who do not attend the training camp automatically disqualify themselves for selection?

One also hears that the IHF has recalled veteran Harpreet Singh? With all due respect to Harpreet, why recall a player who has been out of touch with international hockey for four years - since the '96 Olympic Games? Hasn't the federation time and again stated that they do not need the 'old' boys but want youngsters, keeping an eye on the future? Indeed, it seems the IHF is having a rethink. Good. If so, will we then see the return of Sandeep Somesh, Anil Aldrin, Ashish Ballal, Sanjeev Kumar, Gavin Ferreira, A B Subbaiah, Sabu Varkey, Mukesh Kumar and others?

It is time wiser counsel prevails in the IHF. We are just seven months away from the Olympics and still don't have the nucleus of our team. My suggestion to the IHF is to recall the 'old' guard (the discarded experienced players) immediately, have a healthy discussion with them and iron out all differences. I know it is easier said than done as the IHF has come to be known as a one-man show. Which means that that one man will have to be convinced that it is important to have the 'old' back. I know there are many who are in close contact with the man and can convince him. They have done it in the past and can do it now. Keeping in mind the country's interest they should act immediately if India is to stamp its mark at the coming Olympic Games.

Cedric D'Souza

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