Nobbs alone should not be blamed for hockey slide: Pargat

New Delhi, July 9: Former India hockey captain Pargat Singh, who played a key role in the appointment of Michael Nobbs as national coach in June 2011, blames the Australian as much as the lack of infrastructure in the country for India’s slide at the international level.

Hockey India sacked Nobss after a meeting Friday, making him another foreign coach who could not revive the dipping fortunes of Indian hockey.

Pargat told IANS that Nobbs was never a top coach, but was the best option under the circumstances.

“There were not many options available at that time. Roelant Oltmans (who is currently India’s high performance manager) was too costly and in that context, Nobbs fitted the bill. At the least, we thought he would be able to inculcate the good things of Australian hockey in our players,” said Pargat.

The former defender, however, stressed that it was not fair to only blame Nobbs for the team’s poor run. India finished last in the 2012 Olympics and most recently sixth out of eight teams in the Hockey World League Round 3, failing to qualify for the World Cup.

“The best coach in the world will be no good if you don’t have a system in place. We have no structure at the grassroot level. A few top teams continue to dominate the nationals and you have scorelines such as 20-0. The weaker and strong teams are all playing at the same time. The process should be streamlined where the best of the weaker states qualify to play teams like Punjab,” said the 48-year-old adding that the federation in charge lacked vision to improve the level of the sport.

While Pargat got Nobbs to India, it was under the Australian that another former captain Rajpal Singh was sidelined. The man from Perth wanted to flood the team with youngsters, ignoring the likes of Rajpal, Arjun Halappa, Shivendra Singh and Sandeep Singh.

“I was removed after leading the team to victory in the Asian Champions Trophy in 2011. The policy apparently was to get youngsters and phase out the established names. Clearly, that has not worked out,” Rajpal told IANS.

“Age should not be a criterion as long as the players are performing. Belgium is one team which has improved immensely in the last three-four years and they have not tinkered a lot with their composition,” he said of the side which beat India to win the 2011 Champions Challenge in South Africa.

As for Nobbs, Rajpal said: “Nobbs was weak with his strategy and it was most visible with his actions during the Olympics. I would say Brasa (Jose) was much better than him.”

Looking ahead, he hopes a capable coach will take charge of the team.

“Indian or foreign, the coach should be good. We should focus more on the performance rather than having high performance managers.”

Pargat, on his part, feels the future looks bleak under the existing set-up.

“I don’t see Indian hockey improving with the current management. It seems like a one-man show whereas it should be treated like a shared responsibility which deals with administration and the technical part along with a think-tank which is there for the players all the time,” he said.

Pargat concluded by saying that events like the Hockey India League are good for the upcoming talent but the foreign participation should be restricted.

(Bharat Sharma can be contacted at bharat.s@ians.in)

IANS