New Delhi:Come December, Ric Charlesworth, former star of the Australian hockey team and coach of the country's women team, will head to India to join as technical advisor of the "promotion of Indian hockey" project.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is initiating the project for promotion of Indian hockey.
However, a few of India's Olympic hockey veterans have expressed their reservations about his role as technical advisor and wondered if he would be successful in turning around the declining fortunes of Indian hockey.
At least one of them, Ashok Dhyanchand, is quite blunt. He asked: "Why is this sudden interest in Indian hockey by the FIH?"
Eight times Olympic champions, India have not figured in an Olympic semi-final, since they won the gold medal in the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
"That was long, long ago. Could the FIH not have woken up earlier?" wondered Ashok, adding: "Why is this concern now for the betterment of Indian hockey?"
A star forward of the 1973 World Cup-winning team at Kuala Lumpur, Ashok suspects that the international body has an ulterior motive.
"India has a big market value in the world of hockey. Without India's participation in tournaments, the game loses attraction. The Indian and Pakistani style of playing hockey has its own charm.
"In fact, so important is India that without it there is a danger of hockey even losing its status as an Olympic sport. Also, manufacturers of artificial turf pitches, a multimillion-dollar business, stand to lose," Ashok added.
He also doubted if Charlesworth's stint would yield any good results if he does not reach to the grassroot level.
Harbinder Singh, India's centre forward in an era before Charlesworth came into the Australian Olympic hockey team is of the view that the FIH-appointed expert's role should be made clear in the interest of Indian hockey.
India's experience with a foreign coach on a previous occasion was far from satisfactory; Harbinder would like Indian hockey administrators to recall.
After all, Joaquim Carvalho isn't doing a bad job as chief coach of the present Indian team that in September convincingly won the Asia Cup.
It now remains to be seen if Carvalho, who was one of India's two centre-halves in the Balkrishan Singh-coached 1984 Los Angeles Olympic team, will succeed in steering India into the Beijing Olympics at the qualifiers in Chile in March 2008.
Carvalho would like to be left free to do his job without interference from anyone, not even Charlesworth who is no stranger to him as a player.
Charlesworth turned out in Australia's yellow and green jersey when Carvalho played in India's blue shirt at Los Angeles.
Zafar Iqbal, captain of the Indian team at Los Angeles and later as its coach, also would like to be enlightened about the exact profile of Charlesworth's job.
The sooner it is done the better, he maintained.
After the Premier Hockey League next January, Carvalho will have little time left on his hands till India's campaign in Chile.
Charlesworth, in a recent interaction with the press, was all for increased international exposure, which, students of Indian hockey say, is not a brand new idea.
But sometimes too much of it, before a big tournament, can result in staleness.
Peaking at the right time is what matters. Better leave that to Carvalho and his brains trust.