Harendra Singh’s future as the coach of the Indian hockey team hangs in the balance after International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Narinder Batra said he will review the comments against umpires following India’s quarterfinal defeat against the Netherlands on Thursday.
India, despite an impressive defensive display, lost their last-eight match 1-2 to the Dutch. Harendra blamed the defeat on poor umpiring and accused the on-field officials of stalling India’s progress. The Indian team was agitated after the umpire denied them a penalty corner with four seconds remaining in the match. The team management has also alleged that the Netherlands injector faked a push during a penalty corner – prohibited under the rules – which prompted defender Amit Rohidas to leave his line early.
But Batra, still a highly influential figure in Hockey India, took exception over Harendra’s remarks and said the India coach should’ve been ‘graceful’ in defeat. “Sport has to be played in the right spirit. I am here (in Bhubaneswar) till the 17th. I have to follow certain protocols as FIH president. (But) once I am back in Delhi, then as a NOC (National Olympic Committee) president, I will review this misbehaviour,” Batra, who is also the Indian Olympic Association chief, said.
Harendra’s contract as coach was till the World Cup. Hockey India, who aren’t known for patience when it comes to coaches, is set to review his performance in the coming weeks. The comments against umpires will put Harendra on weak ground.
Meanwhile, the FIH is also likely to launch an inquiry into Harendra’s comments. The world body’s CEO Thierry Weil said ‘respect’ and ‘fair play’ were essential from all teams. “We will not review umpires’ decisions. What we will review is the comments made against the umpires. That is not acceptable. If you lose, you have to accept it and look forward,” Weil said.
Both, Batra and Weil, staunchly defended the standard of umpiring in the World Cup. “The day you lose, you are sad, which I understand. Even Argentina team cried on the bench. To blame umpires is not the hockey style. I would just recommend (that) and definitely say umpires have a tough job,” Weil said. Batra added: “They have only two eyes… what Thierry already said is they are doing a job, a thankless job. They will get criticised by anybody who loses. Be graceful whether you win or lose. Finding fault is very easy.”
Harendra was the women’s team trainer before being transferred to the men’s side in May following India’s disastrous performance at the Commonwealth Games. India won a silver medal at the Champions Trophy in Breda. However, the team failed to defend its Asian Games gold medal, which cost them a direct Olympic berth.
Harendra’s position has been under the scanner ever since. And even though the sixth-place finish at the World Cup is India’s best result since the 1994 edition, it might not be enough to save his job.