Hyderabad:Just when it seemed Indian hockey has turned the corner and is looking ahead, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) appointed technical adviser Ric Charlesworth has pushed it into an abyss by putting in his papers.
The high-profile Australian consultant has left the ad-hoc committee red-faced and the Sports Ministry with yet another problem to tackle.
The K.P.S Gill-led Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) never wanted Charlesworth in the first place, but the FIH thrust the Australian upon IHF as part of its project to raise the standard of the game in the country.
The ad-hoc committee, set up by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to run the sport, after dissolving the IHF, is hopeful that Charlesworth will take back his resignation. The committee knows that it could face major embarrassment if the Australian does not relent.
FIH even threatened to take back the 2010 World Cup holding rights from India, if the administration did not improve. An FIH delegation will be here during the ongoing junior Asia Cup and the Charlesworth issue will override others at their discussions with the Indian officials.
The Australian was always treated as an unwanted guest by Gill and chief coach Joaquim Carvalho. But after the IOA superseded the IHF, it looked as if the decks were cleared for the Australian to have a smooth running. But the new dispensation, too, seems to have reservations about entrusting any major responsibility to Charlesworth and that irked the Western Australian who was an accomplished cricketer too.
Though he was cut up with his de facto employer Sports Authority of India (SAI) for not deciding on his remuneration, his frustration was more because of the lack of quality work and a system that is ineffective.
Sources in the team say that Charlesworth wanted a free hand to coach the side and had an attitude problem which was all too apparent when he was with the team at the Azlan Shah Cup tournament at Ipoh, Malaysia.
"He was not forthcoming with his suggestions and was only interested in having a good pay package. He had an attitude problem and wanted things to move the way he liked, ignoring the others," an official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.
Charlesworth, during his tenure as the high performance manager of the New Zealand cricket team, had run-ins with senior players captain Stephen Fleming, Chris Cairns and Nathan Astle. They have held him responsible for their early retirement from international cricket.
In India Charlesworth hardly got a chance to speak to the players as his involvement remained only to interacting with the coaches.
"He has hardly spoken to us. He had meetings with the coaches only," said India junior team captain Gurbaz Singh, who played in Azlan Shah Cup.
Former hockey Olympian Jagbir Singh is surprised over Charlesworth's resignation. "We do not know why he resigned. Wonder whether he was overloaded with too many things, like o looking after the men's team, women's team, SAI coaching, hockey seminars etc. He is one of the best coaches in the world and any country would love to have him.
"But he has to bear with the system. After all, he has to realise that he had been called to professionalise the set-up. If we could have managed, why do we need a Ric Charlesworth," Jagbir asked.
Indian team's women's coach Maharaj Krishan Kaushik, who had a long interaction with Charlesworth during a camp in Lucknow for the Olympic qualifiers in Kazan, has a different take.
"As far as I am concerned he is the best coach India could have at this juncture. Moreover, he is an excellent sports physcologist. It is very unfortunate that he has resigned. It is not good for our hockey. The women's team needs him," Kaushik said.
"He was very positive. He always came out with suggestions never hurting to anybody while pointing out the mistakes," he added.
Kaushik also said that he did not have any attitude problem.
"Why can't we Indians like somebody who speaks straight. You can call it the Australian way but I call it the sportsman's way."
"In the long term development programme everything should be clear. He is right when he says that his programmes should have been clearly spelt out. We should know how to utilise his service," he said.
"You cannot sail in two boats. If you are having him, you have to listen to what he says. Accept his suggestions and try to implement them. Indian hockey needs Charlesworth. If he is the consultant, the coaches will have to take his advise. It is as simple as that,
"When he talks about the system he is right. That's how things work in India. I said long back that the system has to change if hockey has to improve. Charlesworth has said the same thing. The ad-hoc committe should ask him to reconsider his decision and should give him freedom to work," signed off Kaushik.