Hockey India insists that its chief coach Paul van Ass will return from leave this weekend but it appears that all is not well in the national set-up.
Sources said that Van Ass and federation president Narinder Batra had a public spat on the field moments after India beat Malaysia in the quarter-final of the recently-concluded World League semifinals in Antwerp.
Two late drag-flicks by defender Jasjit Singh had saved India from suffering an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Malaysia on July 1. But the hard-fought win did not impress Batra, who was in Belgium for the tournament.
According to sources, Batra entered the field of play and had a casual word with the players. “He was unhappy with the team’s performance. After the match, as the players were undergoing their cool-down exercises, Batra came near the dug-out and told the players that the performances needed to improve. He also suggested that the coach and captain should sit together and chart the way forward,” the source said.
While he was in the middle of his address to the players, Van Ass intervened and asked Batra to leave the field.
“Van Ass wasn’t happy that Batra was talking to the players directly after the match. He reminded Batra that he was the coach and on field, only he had the authority to talk to the players. Batra was left red-faced and he eventually left but he told Van Ass that his behaviour was not acceptable,” the source added.
Later, Van Ass is believed to have told the players he was ready to face the consequences for his verbal outburst against Batra.
While rest of the Indian contingent, including high performance director Roelant Oltmans, returned home, Van Ass flew directly to Holland for his scheduled leave. Van Ass, who guided Holland to a podium finish at the London Games, later said he was “unsure” when he would return.
The national camp, meanwhile, is set to begin in Shilaroo, Himachal Pradesh, in his absence from July 18. While Van Ass did not respond to calls seeking comment, Batra denied such an incident occurred.
“I can’t recall anything like that happening. It did not happen,” Batra said, adding that Van Ass was expected to return by July 18.
Apart from this incident, Hockey India’s decision to cancel a test series against Holland next month, which Van Ass and Oltmans believed would be crucial in terms of preparation for the Olympics, has also not gone down too well with the two Dutchmen.
India eventually finished fourth in the Antwerp tournament.