V Baskaran, former captain of India’s men’s hockey team, has criticized the players for their performance at the recently held World Cup, where India finished ninth. The hosts were expected to reach at least the semi-finals; however, they lost to New Zealand in the crossover match. The team was coached by Graham Reid and captained by Harmanpreet Singh. Reid resigned after the event to take up responsibility for the team’s lack of success. However, Baskaran said that the players must take responsibility as they failed to deliver their best at the highest level.
Baskaran, who led the team to the 1980 Olympic gold medal, spoke about what led to India’s poor performance, Reid’s resignation, and the way forward for Indian hockey.
While Reid had been criticized for India’s below-par performance, Baskaran thinks it is unfair to blame him. The players’ execution has to be done correctly, and they failed to produce their ‘A game’ at the highest level. Baskaran felt that some of the players were not happy with the coaching, but that blaming the coach for their failure to execute was incorrect. Baskaran insisted that if the players do not offer their best, no game plan or training would work. Also, somewhere along the line, the team lacked the fire they had displayed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where they won the bronze medal.
Baskaran said that Reid should have discussed his resignation with Hockey India President Dilip Tirkey before quitting. He added that Reid’s decision and contribution must be respected, and an excellent coach would be selected for India’s team.
Looking ahead, Baskaran said that Hockey India should have an advisory committee, similar to the one in cricket, to select the coach and a group to search for players. With the Olympics coming up next year, India needs to prepare in an organized way.
Overall, Baskaran emphasized that winning requires many right decisions and hard work, and a mental conditioning coach is not always necessary.