Cannot Blame Graham Reid, Indian Players Did Not Give Their Best at Hockey World Cup: Ex-India Captain V Baskaran

Former Indian men’s hockey team captain V Baskaran, who led them to their last gold medal in the 1980 Olympics, lashed out at the players after their dismal performance in the recently concluded World Cup. On 29 January in Bhubaneswar, hosts India finished ninth with Germany winning the title.

Hosting the World Cup for the second consecutive edition, India were expected to at least reach the semi-finals – something they had not achieved since 1975. A drought-breaking bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the first medal since the 1980 Summer Games, gave good reason to be optimistic. However, the team coached by Graham Reid and captained by Harmanpreet Singh failed to live up to expectations as they were knocked out in a crossover match against New Zealand.

To make matters worse, coach Graham Reid resigned shortly after the showpiece event ended. While Reed has come under fire for India’s low-level performances, Baskaran feels the players are to blame for failing to produce their ‘A game’ at the highest level.

Baskaran, India’s former captain and coach at the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, discusses India’s under-par outing at the World Cup, Reid’s resignation and what could lead to the way forward for Indian hockey.


What is your reaction to Graham Reid’s resignation as India coach, especially when we have improved so much under him?

It turned India into a competitive unit. We have improved his tenure on many fronts. The first thing he improved was that we stopped conceding goals in the last two minutes. On the Australia tour before the World Cup, we saw the team come back from 2-1 down to win the match 4-3. Resignation is his own decision. Before starting to talk about why he resigned or who can replace him, his decision along with his contribution should be respected. That’s Australian culture. A culture where you own results if you don’t. In my opinion, he should definitely continue. He should have consulted Hockey India president Dilip Tirki before resigning. Dileep being an Olympian himself would have understood the situation.

Why do you think Reid would have been forced to resign from his post despite being so highly successful and helping India break the Olympic medal drought?

I have heard, though I don’t know, that some players are not happy with the coaching. This is the attitude of our Indian players. You can’t blame the coach, the players have to execute. In the World Cup, everyone talked about PC (penalty corner) conversions, but somewhere down the line, the players did not perform at their best. Whatever game plan or training you create (will not work) if the players do not give their best. The same team, minus four, did so well against Germany at the last Olympics and came from 1-3 down to win bronze.

People expected this team to perform at a much higher level. First I speak as a player. The fire in the Indian team was missing from the Olympics. Even if you exclude Rupinder Pal Singh, Simranjit Singh, Dilpreet Singh and Gurjant Singh, there was enough experience in the team. Comparing them to the Europeans, the Netherlands are a fairly new team. How did those players execute at the highest level? Which is missing from Indian players. Another thing is that maybe Graham Reid felt the celebrity culture in the team. Indian players must have thought they were celebrities.

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Graham Reid (Hockey India Image)

Where do we go from here? With the Hockey Pro League resuming in March and the Asian Games in nine months, how should Hockey India proceed?

Where we go from here is Hockey India’s plan. Do we continue with the same players or will we have a new setup. In March we have Pro League. In my opinion, the main group was not consistent. I can ask many questions: How did Varun Kumar come back to the core group? After returning from England he was removed and then suddenly returned. Lalit Upadhyay’s fitness is a good player, but he suffered a knee injury some time ago. The front line lacked some sharpness. All other teams scored field goals when PC failed to score. We should have more forwards in a squad of 18 instead of just four. The identity of the forward line was not very aggressive and it put pressure on the midfield.

Do you think it is wise to choose an Indian coach now that there is so much top competition coming up and so little time for one to acclimatize and settle down?

Firstly, there should be an advisory committee in hockey like Hockey India like we have in cricket. To choose a coach. Search committee for players. Dileep is a great player himself so he should be able to do the right things. We need to have a committee to organize and do things properly. Because next year we have the Olympics.

Going back to Reid demanding a mental conditioning coach for India. What are your thoughts on that?

I don’t agree. The same team won the bronze medal without a mental coach. Let’s be honest we have players who have played more than 200 games. The same team won the bronze medal by scoring four goals after being one goal down. If you win, it’s hard work. When you lose, it’s because of a lack of mental conditioning coach. Winning is about a lot of right decisions.

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