Indian hockey is caught in a quagmire. And now with the World Series Hockey coming up,the raging debate is if it would be hampering India’s preparation for the Olympic qualifiers which is scheduled in February next year. In an interview with the The Indian Express ,former India captain Dhanraj Pillay,however,votes for the cash-rich commercial event,saying that it will help popularise Indian hockey. Excerpts:
What is your take on the World Series Hockey?
I fully support the venture. This is one platform which will help popularise hockey in India. I think the government and the sports ministry should also support it. Its great to see that big sponsors and money are coming to Indian hockey. At the end of the day when you finish your career as a player you need some financial security for the future and the World Series Hockey will provide that.
But the chief coach (Michael Nobbs) is saying that the WSH might hamper India’s preparation for the Olympic qualifiers as he needs a long camp to prepare .
I don’t know why the chief coach is saying that he needs a two-three months camp (to prepare). For the last 10 years we always had just 25-30 days camp before a major tournament. Hockey India is insisting on a long camp only because they don’t like the World Series Hockey.
Do you think India have improved under the new coach?
The first tournament that we played under him,the Asian Champions Trophy,was good. But only the Asian teams played there. In Australia,we were back to square one. One thing that bothers me is that the chief coach is saying we have a fifty-fifty chance of qualifying for Olympics. He should be more positive.
Do you think that the team is well prepared to qualify for Olympics?
Is Hockey India prepared enough for the Olympic qualifiers? As far as the team is concerned,the performance in Australia was not up to the mark and they need to work a lot harder and improve to qualify for the Olympics.
Do we have a good quality team?
Right now we don’t have a single world-class player in the team. They are just playing… that’s all. During my time,we had Mukesh Kumar,Sabu Varkey alongside me. When I was a junior,I used to take inspiration from the likes of Pargat Singh and Jude Felix. But right now there is no one in the team who can single-handedly win you matches.
What will you suggest for the betterment of Indian hockey?
We need to go to the grassroots. Don’t just concentrate on 30-35 players who are in the India camp. Top teams like Holland,Germany,Australia and Spain are way ahead. We need at least five to ten years to catch up with them. We have to unearth quality talents and they should be provided with proper infrastructure.