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Issue:January' 2018


India’s hockey coach


Graham Reid There is an irresistible lure about the job. Every one in the coaching business secretly desires to be appointed manager of the Indian hockey team which last won the Olympic gold medal way back in 1980 at the Moscow Games remembered for the boycot by 65 Western Bloc countries led by the United States. That was the eighth time that India had won the Olympic hockey gold medal starting 1928 at Amsterdam. It is a record no other country can match. It is unforgettable history.
Several other countries have since come up in the game, but old reputations still abide in the minds of hockey-playing countries. Old skills of the game Indian hockey players were famous for have been passed down from generation to generation. They are still there even if there are no Olympic gold medals to show.

One has lost count of the number of coaches Indian hockey has seen in the last few decades. Some of the coaches India has hired have received little attention in their own countries. The latest to have taken up the job last month is Australia’s Graham Reid, 52, who will be based at Bengaluru. He is the third from that country among over 30 whom India’s hockey administrators have hired so far with little to show. Michael Nobbs and Terry Walsh were the two other Australians handled the job before Reid, who will succeed Harendra Singh. Reid’s last job was as assistant coach of the Netherlands team.

Sportspersons as politicians

The nation is in the grip of the election fever and sports fans will be following keenly how some of India’s sportspersons fare in their second innings as politicians.

Rajyavardhan Rathore and
Krishna Poonia
One contest to watch out for is between the Union sports minister Col Rajyavardhan Rathore and Krishna Poonia for the Jaipur Rural seat. Poonia, the country’s leading woman discus thrower, has been fielded by the Indian National Congress. She is the sitting MLA from the r e g i o n . Rathore, who won the Lok Sabha seat in 2014 after t a k i n g v o l u n t a r y r e t i r e m e n t from the army, first shot into fame when he won the double trap shooting silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games at Athens.
One still remembers the day when Rathore won the silver 15 years ago. Parliament was in session when the news broke. Promptly halting the proceedings, the Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, an avowed sports fan, asked the House to show its appreciation for the army officer’s feat with a standing ovation.

Both Rathore and Poonia are keeping it clean in the midst of election campaigns elsewhere which are becoming increasingly heated leading to violations of the model code of conduct (MCC) for a which a few leaders have invited punishment from the election commission.

Gautam Gambhir Baichung Bhutia Another former sportsperson who could be in the fray is newcomer Gautam Gambhir who till the other day opened the batting for India. Meanwhile, Baichung Bhutia is excited as he launches his new Hamro Sikkim Party.

A voice in FIFA council

Praful Patel The election of Praful Patel in Kuala Lumpur last month as a member of the international football federation (FIFA) council is a major development which has not only raised the stock of the Indian football administration but also the man’s personal standing as a politician at a time when the country is busy with the general elections. An influential member of the Nationalist Congress Party, he served as Union minister for heavy industries and public enterprises in prime minister Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet.
Mr Patel has been part of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for long, initially as deputy to the late Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi and later as head of the federation. Indian football has seen significant changes under his leadership despite problems created by leading league clubs. The under-17 World Cup two years ago drew widespread praise, although the Indian boys had little to show by way of winning matches. In any case they had been allotted a place in the tournament only by right as hosts.

Now, the allotment of the 2020 World Cup for under-17 girls to India has come as another development which will help develop the women’s football in the country. With Mr Patel there in the FIFA council, it is hoped that the Indian men’s team, now ranked 101 in the world, will receive better exposure in the shape of international friendly matches.

Before rushing home from the 29th congress of the Asian Football Confederation

Mr Patel did not forget to thank representatives of member-nations for electing him to the FIFA council. He received 38 of the 46 votes polled.

No stopping

Virat Kohli and Smriti Mandhana Nobody likes a challenge better than Virat Kohli. The dynamic bat wiped out the memories of his unusually low average of 13.40 during the 2014 tour of England with a much-improved average of 59.3 from 593 runs during the 2018 series, just a fraction of the 2735 runs amassed last year. The effort was good enough for Virat to become not only one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year for having an excellent English summer but also claiming the Leading Cricketer award for the fourth time and third year in a row. Kohli’s only the third player to have won the award more than three times, but still behind the Don (10) and Jack Hobbs (8).
Wisden’s Cricket Almanack, which the cricket world regards as its bible, named Smriti Mandhana as the Leading Woman Cricketer for scoring an impressive 669 runs in ODIs, 662 in T20Is and 421 in the women’s Super League.

Kohli, as captain of India’s team, will now take with him the best wishes of millions of Indian cricket fans in the World Cup this summer in England. Many among the millions must have been disappointed at not finding the rising Rishab Pant in Kohli’s 15-man party. But then there has seldom, if ever, been a team selection which has satisfied everyone.