The search for a foreign coach for Indian men's hockey team is all but over with Dutchman Roelant Oltmans emerging as the front-runner to take over the job for a five-year term.
Oltmans name emerged as the favourite after he appeared for an interview before the Sports Authority of India and Hockey India officials along with other two candidates - twice Olympic and world champion Jacques Brinkman of Netherlands and former Australian Olympian Michael Jack Nobbs.
Later talking to the media, SAI Director General Desh Deepak Verma said that they have identified a candidate out of the three for the high-profile job and will now sent their recommendation to the Sports Ministry for approval.
"We had a meeting with 3 people - 2 from Netherlands and one from Australia -- who presented their case before us. After discussions we have zeroed in on one candidate and will now sent the recommendation to the ministry," Verma told reporters at the SAI office on Tuesday.
"The new coach will be given a contract till 2016 Olympics because we now have to think about long-term associations."
Although the new coach will be provided a long-term contact, his performance will be evaluated after every international outing.
"But after every international tournament we will assess his performance," the SAI DG said.
Asked about the remuneration of the new foreign coach, Verma said, "It would be slightly expensive than the last foreign coach but I guess we can afford that for Indian hockey.
"In addition his contract will also have provision for incentives if we qualify for the (2012 London) Olympics," he said.
Apart from the SAI DG, the meeting was also attended by HI secretary general Narinder Batra, former skipper and HI Developmenet Committee chairman Pargat Singh, who shortlisted the candidates, HI Executive Director Anupam Ghulati among others.
India has been looking for a foreign coach since Spaniard Jose Brasa's contract expired after the Asian Games last year.
HI then handed the reins to national coach Harendra Singh for last month's Azlan Shah Cup last month but he failed to produce desired results in the tournament.
With the national camp slated to start in Bangalore from July 1, the administrators of the game are desperate to sort out the coach's issue within a day or two.
"All the coaches are employed so we have told them to get back to us in a day or two," Pargat said.
While Oltmans is the High Performance Director of the Netherlands Olympic Committee, Brinkman has his own company and is also involved in club coaching.
Pargat said whoever is appointed, the foreign coach will have to work extensively to develop a strong and healthy coaching system in the country.
"We will have to have a system in place. We discussed about our Indian mechanism and what pattern India needs to follow with all the candidates.
"The coach needs to develop a long-term system in the country," he said.
Oltmans also seemed optimistic about his chances but said instead of thinking about short-term goals, India need to focus on long-term objectives.
"I made my presentation and focussed on areas which I think are important for the future of Indian hockey. I want India to be one of the best in the world but that is a long-term process. (Qualifying for the) Olympics is important but in the long run consistency is what matters," said the 57-year-old, who guided Holland to gold medals in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and 1998 Utrecht World Cup.
"Participation is not important what is important is winning. To make India a potent force in world hockey again we need a development programme. Talent is there but it will take time and everyone should understand that," Oltmans said.
He also said that his association with Pakistan team will definitely help him but made it clear that he won't accept a short-term contract.
"I explained (to the panel) how important it is to have a long-term programme say for 6-8 years. A short contract is not acceptable to me," said Oltmans, who coached Pakistan in 2003-04.
He also said that if selected for the assignment he will speak to his predecessor Brasa to get a first-hand knowledge about the working conditions in India.
Apart from Oltmans, the other two candidates - Nobbs and Brinkman - also seemed hopeful about their prospects. Both Nobbs and Brinkman said if given a chance they will like to bring back the past glory of Indian hockey.
"My presentation was good, interesting and very co-operative. Hopefully, we can achieve something good for Indian hockey. Hope, we can take Indian hockey back to the number one position," Nobbs said.
Asked about the tough task of making India qualify for the London Olympics if he becomes the coach, the Australian said, "They (India) would love to qualify for the Olympics but it would be difficult in such a short-time."
Brinkman, however, was of the view that qualifying for the London Olympics is difficult but not impossible.
"It is difficult but the gap between international teams is very small. It needs hard work but there is possibility because there is still 200 days left," said the twice Olympic (1996, 2000) and World Cup (1990, 1998) gold medalist.
"Don't forget the technical abilities of India, it is their strength. You never know India can be a surprise element of 2012 (Olympics)," added Brinkman.