ON a day when chief coach Paul van Ass was to submit his report to Hockey India over India’s performance in the recently-concluded World League, uncertainty has emerged over his role with the team.
It is learnt that the Dutchman’s name is conspicuously missing from the letter sent to the players, which informs them about the national camp that begins at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Shilaroo, Himachal Pradesh, from July 18. Instead of van Ass, the letter says players have to report to Sandeep Sangwan, who is one of the assistant coaches of the team.
Normally, the players are asked to report to the chief coach when they receive summons for the camps.
Moreover, van Ass — currently on a leave, visiting Holland —himself is believed to have said he is unsure when he will return. Hockey India president Narinder Batra said van Ass is ‘supposed to return on 17th or 18th’ of July.
The questions over his return comes at a time when Hockey India is set to begin an in-depth postmortem over the team’s ‘disappointing’ performance at the World League semifinals in Belgium.
Batra had said they would conduct a thorough evaluation and would take whatever steps necessary to ensure the team does not finish last at next year’s Olympics.
The World League semifinals was India’s second outing under van Ass.
They had won a bronze medal at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and even though the team finished fourth in Belgium, the top brass of the federation was not happy with the performance. They were particularly peeved with India’s inability to put up a fight against top teams such as Belgium, Great Britain and Australia. India lost all those matches by heavy margins.
Hanging in the balance
The performances have left the fate of the chief coach and high performance director Roelant Oltmans’ hanging.
Even before the team returned home from the tournament, Oltmans had decided to resign but later had a rethink and was convinced to carry on for the time being.
Van Ass, who was appointed as the coach earlier this year, is known to be outspoken and is believed to have had a series of meetings with the players in Belgium, where he has categorically informed them that reputations would count for nothing and heads would roll if the players failed to perform.