Every top overseas coach engaged by Hockey India (HI) left abruptly with a bitter experience and cursing both the sports administrators and themselves for accepting the position in the first place.
The latest casualty, Roelant Oltmans, is no exception. He said he knew he could be thrown out at any time and he was prepared for it. It looks as if the script is prepared and well-rehearsed by both the outgoing coach and the HI management.
Like in cricket, hockey too has a couple of excellent statisticians and one of them produced a stunner -- that the country, in the last two decades, replaced as many as 23 coaches! That certainly is some dubious record..
The difference between cricket and hockey is that the former found the market first and the latter the position as the first non-European hockey chief with highly ambitious Narendra Batra selling other hockey nations a dream, like a good businessman that he is, to become the FIH president.
What prompted the latest upheaval? It is reduced to unexpected losses to Malaysia and Canada. Was that the reason enough to boot the coach out? The IHF found a new way of breathing down the neck of the chief coach. A high performance director is let loose on him. Oltmans was used by the HI to kick-out his predecessor, Australian Terry Walsh. Before the two, Paul van Ass, Michael Nobbs and Jose Brasa came and went, some with a couple of good results, but all of them carried their resignation letters in their pockets like carrying their passports wherever they went.
Oltmans does not have the luxury Ravi Shastri has as coach or the captain Virat Kohli has on the players. Three senior players were part of the committee that reviewed the performance and they all reportedly had a whole lot of complaints against Oltmans, now that they know he is not there anymore. One of the charges apparently is that he carried and shielded some deadwood.
It only proves that there is a Kohli in hockey, too, and his writ runs when it comes to picking a coach or sacking one. If players sit in judgment over coaches you can imagine the chaos. And the committee seemed to have reposed more faith in the players than calling the coach and confronting him.
For now, the Indian federation found another High Performance Director to take over from Oltmans and he might soon be confirmed as the coach and find another director to keep him on his toes or on tenterhooks!