A top sports ministry official has said that India’s Australian-born javelin coach Garry Calvert would have been given revised contract terms after the World Championships in London in August, if the 62-year-old had the patience to bide his time instead of resigning earlier this week. The Australian’s current contract runs till February next year, but since September he had been pushing for a new contract that runs till the 2020 Olympics and a 50 per cent hike in salary. Calvert was Neeraj Chopra’s coach when the teenager won gold at the World Junior Championships in Poland, with a throw of 86.48 metres.
“Resigning midway through a contract with the Asian Athletics Championships just a few months away (in July) and the World Championships later this year, he has been unprofessional as the athletes have been left in the lurch so close to two big events. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) would have looked at giving him a new contract based on the performance of athletes at the World Championships. He had an ongoing contract and by resigning he has violated the contractual obligations,” a top sports ministry official told The Indian Express on Monday.
Calvert, on his part, says the uncertainty and lack of job security beyond February next year had forced him to move on. “I had met the SAI director general (Injeti Srinivas) in September just after the Olympics and made it clear that I wanted to commit to coaching Indian athletes till the Tokyo Games. Subsequently, I was told to approach the Athletics Federation of India and forward my request for a new contract through them. I have spoken to the president (Adille Sumariwala), secretary CK Valson and Lalit Bhanot (chairman, planning and coaching). They were dismissive when I approached them about a new contract. The uncertainty has gone on since September and when I didn’t get an answer or assurance, I put in my papers on Tuesday,” Calvert said, elaborating on the circumstances that made him quit. The Australian also said that despite the gold-medal winning performance of Chopra, he was the ‘second-lowest paid foreign coach’.
Currently, the athletes are worried about the uncertainty ahead of two big championships in less than four months. A training and competition trip to Europe, under Calvert, had also been planned in the run-up to the Asian championships. “I have gained a lot with regard to technique and training regimen while working with coach Garry. I trained under him in the run-up and during the junior world championships last year. His methods have helped me ,” Chopra said.
The coach broke the news of his resignation during a lunch at a mall in Bangalore, where the javelins throwers are based. It seems to be the end of the road for Calvert in India, with the coach already bagging a contract with another country and the SAI not willing to talk to him to take back his resignation. “Half a dozen countries were keen to hire me and I have been patient for six months hoping to hear from either the SAI or the AFI. But without job security, it is not possible to plan till the next Olympic cycle. The SAI wanted a one-year plan and a plan till the Tokyo Olympics. I have prepared both but when it came to giving me a contract till 2020, nobody was interested.”
The sports ministry, it is learnt, believes Calvert behaved like a ‘mercenary’. “He used to send email after email asking for a new contract. If his intention was to blackmail us, it did not work. There are other international coaches we can hire. There is no question of asking him to reconsider his decision because he has already resigned and is serving his notice period,” the sports ministry official said.
On Calvert’s request, six athletes, including Chopra, had shifted base to Bangalore from Patiala because the moderate weather in the Garden City, the Australian believed, was better suited than the extreme temperatures at the National Institute of Sport. Calvert opines that Indian javelin throwers have the potential to be among some of the best in the world if the officials make athletes and coaches the priority. “Indian throwers have immense potential as we have seen with the likes of Chopra. I would have loved to continue working in India. However, that is not to be now because I have made up my mind to move on and put in my papers.”