Michael Nobbs’s last-chance saloon: Perform or perish at Asia Cup

Hockey India seems to be fast running out of patience with chief coach Michael Nobbs.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Mumbai | Published: July 2, 2013 2:14 am

Hockey India seems to be fast running out of patience with chief coach Michael Nobbs,with sources suggesting the Australian could be on his way out if India fails to win the Asia Cup next month. MK Kaushik,who is on the verge of becoming Nobbs’s deputy,is seen as a possible replacement.

India need to win the Asia Cup to qualify for next year’s World Cup after they missed a chance to book a place via the World League semifinals. With Kaushik in the support staff,there is increased pressure on Nobbs to deliver results. The Australian,who completed two years at the helm on June 30,has not lived up to expectations despite been given privileges,like a long-term contract and having a greater say in team selection,which his predecessors did not enjoy.

It is believed that Nobbs has been categorically told to ensure the team’s qualification for the World Cup by winning the Asia Cup. Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra had said last week that India should not live in the hope of getting a back-door entry for the showpiece tournament. The duo met in New Delhi last week before Nobbs went to Australia for a short break. Kaushik is likely to join the team during the national camp which will commence in Bangalore on July 15. “The amount of money that has been invested and the kind of returns that we have got hasn’t pleased many. Asia Cup could be the final tournament for Nobbs to prove his worth,or else he could be out,and if that happens,Kaushik will be the front-runner to replace him,” a Hockey India source said.

results not satisfactory

Hockey India high performance director Roelant Oltmans conceded that the team’s performance under Nobbs had not been up to the mark. “Yes,the results haven’t been satisfactory if you look back at last two years. I have to talk to him (Nobbs) about this once he is back from Australia and find out what the reason is. We need to improve a lot,” Oltmans told The Indian Express,adding he hoped that Kaushik’s addition would strengthen the coaching team.

Kaushik,it must be recalled,was the coach of the women’s team and was sacked after a few players made sexual harassment allegations against him. He was cleared of the charges following an inquiry conducted by the sports ministry. India won their last major international tournament,the 1998 Asian Games,with Kaushik as coach. The 58-year-old is known to be a taskmaster. With his appointment as deputy coach,Hockey India hope to achieve a balance between Nobbs’s man-management skills and Kaushik’s tactical abilities.

Kaushik said he will know the exact nature of his job only after the government approves it. “It’s a pleasant surprise. I have wanted to return to coaching for a long time and I am glad that Hockey India has offered me this role. At this moment,though,I am exactly clear about my role. Once the appointment is made official,I will sit down with the rest of the coaches and officials from Hockey India and discuss with them,” he said.

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