The lead protagonists in the off-field drama explain their positions

All top teams plan with a long-term target in mind. Our target is to get back to the top and the five-member selection panel was formed with that aim.

Published: February 8, 2009 3:33 pm

‘What I said was that no one should play only for records. It’s simply a case of passing the baton.’
Aslam Sher Khan
National selector)

All top teams plan with a long-term target in mind. Our target is to get back to the top and the five-member selection panel was formed with that aim. The only way to reach there is through the 2010 World Cup,and there is not much time left for that.

What I said was that no one should play only for records. I did not take any names,though everyone knows who the seniors in this team are. It’s simply a case of passing the baton. If a senior player proves himself and fits into the team’s scheme of things,he will remain in the team. I don’t deny that experience is very important to win,but every player has to have the hunger to win. History remembers only winners.

But players have to be honest. Only a player can know how much he can contribute,whether he is an advantage or a liability,whether he can win a World Cup for India. Self motivation is the most important thing.

There are players who have played for long for the country,now it’s time for results. And if someone is not up to international level,he should be given an honourable exit. What we need today is not a team who simply participate,but a team who win. My going public with my views may not be welcomed but perhaps that’s what has spurred these boys to do well!

Having said that,I admit there will be pressure on the senior players. There is no doubt that the barometer for judging players will be different. A youngster will be expected to do well,but he may be excused for a while for not performing,since he is just beginning. A senior player,however,has to do well because he has the experience and so has that additional responsibility. Like in cricket,the expectations from a Dravid or a Sachin will be different from those from a Raina or even a Yuvraj.

I never said that the coach should not interfere in selection. A coach is an active participant in selection meetings because his inputs are important. But we also have to think of the future. However talented a player might be,everyone has a prime period and after that the performance goes down. These senior players will not survive for the next 5-10 years,will they? That’s for how long we have to plan.

‘Age is a non-issue in sports. You don’t have to look any further than Lance Armstrong.’
Harendra Singh (National coach)

Firstly,I don’t agree with the concept of ‘seniors’ and ‘juniors’ in a side. If you play for the country,performance and fitness should be the only criterion.
I agree that those who have played for long are more experienced,but experience has never been a disadvantage. As for age,that is a non-issue in sports. You don’t have to look any further than Lance Armstrong. Also,juniors may be more skilful,fitter and faster,but they lack tactical knowledge that comes with experience. I have been a junior coach for long to understand this. There is no point in pushing a successful junior into the senior level too quickly.

Also,I don’t think there is anything left for these players to prove. They have given their best for the game. What more do my boys have to do to prove their commitment?

Then,if performance is the yardstick,then these ‘seniors’ — Dilip,Deepak,Vikram,Arjun,Ignace — have let their game speak in this tournament.
And if we talk about cricket,even if Sachin Tendulkar doesn’t perform for a couple of matches,he will still be part of the team — because he is a proven player,and his presence matters. In this team,Dilip Tirkey is a larger-than-life presence. Vikram and Arjun give the confidence that they can get the team out of any tricky situation. It’s evident in the players’ body language,the team meetings,the whole atmosphere.
As far as fitness and performance go,rotating substitution is something that we have to learn to use. If we play with the same 11 players for 70 minutes in three straight matches,they are bound to break down. Stephan Veen played for just 17 minutes in the 2000 Sydney Olympics final,but he scored all three goals to help Holland win. With the kind of fast-paced hockey played today,we can’t expect any player to play an entire tournament without a break.
My point is that questioning any player’s presence publicly in the middle of a tournament is unwarranted. I want to sit with the selectors and Suresh Kalmadi after the tournament and discuss the issue. As far as my going public on Aslam Sher Khan’s comments is concerned,I did that only for my boys. I support them and will continue to do so.

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