India's hockey coach Terry Walsh today quit from his position after his contractual talks with Hockey India and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) broke down but a fresh proposal is still being worked out for the Australian's consideration. Walsh, whose contract was to come to an end Wednesday, had already submitted his resignation last month after his demands for a greater say in team decisions and hand-picked support staff were turned down by HI and SAI.
Walsh had been negotiating to stay on board and met Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal Tuesday morning but the talks ended inconclusively, prompting the 60-year-old to head back to Australia without withdrawing his resignation. If Walsh doesn't return, India will be without their chief coach in next month's FIH Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar.
However, a fresh proposal will sent to him in the next couple of days for his consideration, leaving the door still open for his return to India. Walsh, who was present at a press conference, said that he was still optimistic about coaching the Indian team and that the fresh proposal would address all his demands. (Walsh Has Left Indian Hockey in Lurch: Nobbs)
Walsh's continuance had become doubtful after reports emerged that he had developed serious differences with Hockey India President Narinder Batra. Batra had alleged that Walsh had indulged in "financial fraud" during his stint with USA Hockey and he was reluctant to keep the Australian on board. (Indian Hockey Will Suffer if Walsh Leaves: Oltmans)
If Walsh does not come back, it can be counted as a setback to Indian hockey considering that the team had been producing good results under his watch. The men recently won the Asian Games gold medal after a gap of 16 years, which also fetched them qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. (India Crush Pakistan for Asian Games Gold)
Before this, the team won a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games and most recently defeated world champions Australia in an away Test series. Earlier, a three-member panel had been formed to look into Walsh's demands but it failed to come to any "conclusion". (India Stun World Champions Australia for Historic Series Win)
The panel comprising former hockey captains Ajit Pal Singh, Ashok Kumar and Zafar Iqbal met Walsh, Hockey India Performance Director Roelant Oltmans and Sports Authority of India officials twice but could not come up with a solution to end the logjam. Apart from a greater say in decisions and support staff of his choice, Walsh has also sought 120 days paid leave in a year during which he has committed to stay available over video conference for players.
Walsh, on his part, reiterated that progress cannot be made without change in the current set-up. "I have been really excited by the SAI and government's desire to review and possibly implement small changes to enhance hockey in India," said Walsh. "Their support in this process has been extremely positive and shows a clear desire to bring hockey forward in this country. Change is never easy but without it progress cannot be made," he emphasised.
Walsh said the national team has huge potential. "I have become strongly attached to the performance of the players and support staff. With this team there is huge potential and a growing level of performance. I thank them sincerely for their efforts, their trust and most of all their friendship. "But as of last evening I closed my role with the national program," said the Australian, who was appointed India coach in October last year, replacing the sacked and fellow Australian Michael Nobbs.
Walsh made it amply clear that his differences were with Hockey India rather than SAI as earlier perceived. "We have reached an impasse in proceedings regarding my involvement with the program but there may be a way forward. This must be finalised Hockey India and myself." He is still hoping for a positive outcome. "I m still hoping for a resolution to this situation in the very near future. My case has been discussed today and I need a few days to gather my thoughts."