Not willing to throw in the towel just yet, former hockey coach Terry Walsh expressed his willingness to return to India with immediate effect. In a letter addressed to sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Monday, the Australian — who is embroiled in a prolonged resignation drama with the ministry and Hockey India — said he is considering legal options to clear his name following allegations of financial impropriety made by Hockey India (HI) president Narinder Batra.
Interestingly, sports secretary Ajit Sharan, Sports Authority of India (SAI) director general Jiji Thomson and Batra said they did not receive any letter from Walsh. However, it is highly unlikely that Walsh will be reinstated as the chief coach as Batra has reportedly informed him as well as SAI that Hockey India does not require his services any more.
On Monday, the national governing body announced the 18-member Indian squad for next month’s Champions Trophy with high performance director Roelant Oltmans doubling up as the interim coach.
Walsh, who left India last week after his talks with Hockey India, sports ministry and SAI broke down, insisted in his letter that he remained ‘committed’ to the players. “Regardless of the nature of my future involvement in India, I remain committed to my players. I believe that feeling is reciprocated. They are a fine bunch of men. Hockey is part of the soul of India and they are conscious of their responsibility in this regard,” he wrote.
The 60-year-old further added he wished Hockey India would join him and the SAI to begin preparations for the Rio Olympics without any further controversy. Walsh had guided India to their first Asian Games gold since 1998, which made it the first country to qualify for the 2016 Games, barring the host nation.
Walsh wrote: “I remain willing to return to India immediately to resume positive discussions with SAI and at the same time publicly refute the detestable misinformation being introduced into the public arena. My earnest wish is that Hockey India joins with us to enable the national team to begin its preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games free of controversy and irrelevant other issues.”
The former Australia and Holland coach also threatened to take legal action against Batra for making ‘baseless’ allegations against him. Batra had alleged that Walsh was involved in a financial misconduct during his tenure with USA Field Hockey, saying he wrongly pocketed $176,000. “I have instituted legal proceedings in the United States to seek restitution and protect my reputation. I am considering similar actions in India. This is very unfortunate…,” Walsh added.
Despite the letter, Walsh’s return to India looks unlikely unless Hockey India softens its stand. Batra said he hasn’t received the letter sent by Walsh. “Our stand remains the same. I have not received any letter written by him so I can’t comment on what he has said,” Batra said.
The ministry, however, is willing to bring him back but expressed its helplessness. “It’s a tripartite agreement between us, Hockey India and Walsh. If Hockey India is not agreeable to his appointment, we cannot do anything,” a SAI official said. “Without a clearance on the issue he has with USA Hockey, Hockey India won’t accept him and we are also waiting for it to be cleared. If Hockey India is okay with him, then so are we.”
Hi name team
Meanwhile, HI announced a 18-member squad, led by Sardar Singh, for the eight-nation Hero Men’s Champions Trophy to be held in Bhubaneswar from December 6-14.
The Squad: (Goalkeepers): P R Sreejesh, Harjot Singh; Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, V R Raghunath, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Gurbaj Singh, Gurjinder Singh; Midfielders: Manpreet Singh, Sardar Singh, Dharamvir Singh, Danish Mujtaba, S K Uthappa; Forwards: Ramandeep Singh, S V Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Lalit Upadhyay.