Harendra Singh to coach mens hockey team Sjoerd Marijne in charge of womens side
Hockey India swaps roles for the two coaches
The musical chairs in Hockey India continue and this time around, Harendra Singh has been given the hot seat as coach of the national men's team. He swaps his position with Dutchman Sjoerd Marijne – who goes back to the women's team, a position he had held since February last year.
The decision makes Harendra the first Indian coach of the side since Joaquim Carvalho oversaw India's ignominious ouster from the Olympics for the first time ever in 2008, although he has been given interim charge thrice before. While the actual terms of the contract are yet to be drawn up, sources confirmed he would be included in the top bracket of Indian coaches and paid approx. ? 2 Lakhs per month. The decision was taken after a marathon meeting here on Tuesday that lasted more than five hours.
It's a decision whose timing is baffling to say the least, was most obvious in September last year but now appears coming eight months too late and too close to big tournaments – both men and women - for comfort. Harendra was the front-runner for the post after Roelant Oltmans was sacked but instead was given charge of the women's team, a first for him. Marijne was moved from women to men, also a first for him, midway through their Europe tour. Then, the two had little time to prepare but ended up winning their respective Asia Cups.
This time around, the women's team would be participating in the Asian Champions Trophy starting May 13 and is already training in Bengaluru while Marijne is back in Holland, waiting for a fresh passport and visa. The men go for the Champions Trophy in June, giving Harendra just over a month to get into the job, understand the team and make plans.
It won't be too difficult, however, given that a large number of juniors were promoted to the senior ranks after the Junior World Cup triumph in 2016 under him. Harendra also has been associated with many of the senior players in the side during their junior days and knows them well. However, it won't be easy either to handle the big names and fragile egos now for the hard taskmaster.
Under Harendra, the women's team had improved vastly, winning the Asia Cup against higher-ranked opponents last year and finishing a creditable fourth at the recent Commonwealth Games including an impressive win against Olympic gold medallists England. The same finish, however, was deemed disappointing for the men with questions being raised on Marijne's selection policies and tactics.
Officially, all parties concerned have expressed satisfaction. “Harendra Singh brings with himself wealth of experience and has previously managed a lot of the men's team players during his stints in the Hockey India League and with the junior teams,” Hockey India secretary general Mohd. Mushtaque Ahmed said.
“It is an honour for me to manage the Indian men’s team. It has been a very satisfying journey with the women's team and I would like to thank Hockey India for entrusting me with the new role,”Harendra added.
“I’m excited to reunite with the women’s team and will look to focus on building on the good form exhibited by the team in the last six months,” the 44-year old Marijne declared.
But his blog earlier in the day hinted at disappointment.
“We won the Asia Cup with dominating hockey, in the World League we have shown we can beat world-class teams. Unfortunately at the Commonwealth Games we didn't perform the way we expected but still we had good statistics...I had a lot of confidence that with this way of working we could win the Asian Games and the Word Cup,” he wrote about his stint with the men's team, also defending his 'player-driven' system.
Most of the players in the men's ranks have welcomed the move. The women, however, would feel hard done by. But even they seem to have accepted the status quo and that it's business as usual in Indian hockey.
What Marijne wrote in his blog:
“We won the Asia Cup with dominating hockey, in the World League we have shown we can beat world-class teams and with our New Zealand tour, we made another step in our process to win the Asian Games and the World Cup. Unfortunately at the Commonwealth Games we didn't perform the way we expected but still we had good statistics.
The coaching style I chose was players' driven. The reason is that players learn to take responsibility for their actions, because in all decisions which were taken, they were involved and that means they were supporting the plan. The other reason is that, when you involve players in the thinking process, they will get more tactical awareness and learn faster. This is scientifically proven because they have to learn to take decisions on the pitch. It means that I prepared the matches and after this I shared it with the leaders so that they can explain in Hindi to the rest of the team.
I had a lot of confidence that with this way of working we could win the Asian Games and the World Cup.
I wish the new coach all the best with this process and I will focus on the women to continue the process I started 14 months ago to do well at the World Cup and the Asian Games. The girls have worked hard and I am looking forward to see them again at the Asian Champions Trophy in Korea.”