India’s Champions Trophy preparations have been left in tatters after chief coach Terry Walsh decided to fly back to Australia on Tuesday. The 60-year-old will leave for Perth on Wednesday after his contract talks with sports ministry and Hockey India failed to materialize.
Walsh insisted there was still a ‘glimmer of hope’ of him returning before the Champions Trophy but for that to happen, the fallout between him and Hockey India president Narinder Batra will have to be addressed.
Batra said he spoke to Walsh on Tuesday morning and demanded an explanation of the charges of financial impropriety during his reign as the technical director of USA Field Hockey. The Australian, it is learnt, asked Batra to withdraw his statement. “He (Walsh) spoke to me in the morning. I said this financial thing needs to be resolved. He said he had all the documents, so I told him to hand it over to me. That would be the end of the issue,” Batra said.
Batra has alleged that Walsh was involved in a financial irregularity of $176,000 during his time in the US for using a software which Walsh had developed along with a firm named SportsTec. The Australian has strongly refuted the claim, saying it was a ‘contractual issue’ between him and USA Hockey.
It is learnt that the CEO of SportsTec Philip Jackson wrote an email to Batra on Tuesday evening, categorically stating that the charges leveled against Walsh are baseless. Batra, however, said he was not in possession of any such mail and would be able to check only after he reaches Delhi on Thursday.
Demand for autonomy
Walsh had resigned as the coach of the national team last month, demanding more autonomy and decision making powers. His one-month notice period ends on Wednesday. Walsh held a meeting with sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Tuesday to arrive at a solution but they were unable to make any breakthrough.
The sports ministry maintained their faith in him, insisting he was the right man for the job. “The minister applauded Walsh’s recent performance and believed that he is the right man to take Indian hockey forward. The minister patiently listened to Walsh’s proposals and have agreed to all of them in principle and has asked the committee to find more details,” Sports Authority of India’s Executive Director (teams) Sudhir Setia said. “However, Walsh stated that he needs few days off to go back to Australia. He will then have a re-look at all the proposals offered in a positive manner towards renewal of his contract.”
Walsh, who guided India to the Asian Games gold in October and a test series win over Australia earlier this month, said the team will be very powerful if they get through this phase positively. “It is important that we get through this phase and that we get through it intact. It has been a difficult time for both the individuals and the team as a whole. If we can get through this positively, then I think it will be a very powerful team,” he said.
Batra said in Walsh’s absence, high performance director Roelant Oltmans will be in charge of the national team’s ongoing camp in New Delhi. The elite eight-nation tournament begins in Bhubaneswar on December 6. “We will know by weekend if Walsh wants to return. If he doesn’t, we will begin our search for the new coach,” Batra said. “He was told all these issues can be sorted out within a month and was asked to continue as the coach. But he refused. If he was so concerned about the team, why did he have to go back to Australia?”
Walsh, on his part, remained hopeful of a solution. “Yesterday (on Monday) there was no chance. Today, there is a glimmer of hope,” he said.