If all goes well, double Olympian Terry Walsh could be Indian hockey's next chief coach. An official announcement is expected in a week's time. Walsh will replace fellow-Australian Michael Nobbs, who resigned on health grounds in July this year.
Walsh's appointment is subject to clearance from the Sports Authority of India that pays the salaries of all foreign coaches. It is understood that the 60-year-old Walsh is negotiating his price with the SAI and Hockey India officials and he is not expected to come cheap.
With India virtually assured of a place in the World Cup in The Hague next year, the need of a chief coach has become imperative. High performance manager Roelant Oltmans doubled up as head coach during the Asia Cup in Malaysia in August-September, but with the Dutchman responsible for overall high performance development of Indian hockey, finding a chief coach for the senior men's team is high on HI's agenda.
Sources reveal Hockey India shortlisted six foreign candidates for the chief coach's post. Walsh was one of the three Aussies in fray. There were two Dutch applications too but Walsh apparently has the best credentials.
Apart from being a former Olympian, Walsh also has an 'emotional' link. He has an Indian grandfather but that's not the reason why HI will hire him. What's going in Walsh's favour is his experience with Dutch hockey methodology. "Roelant has some fixed ideas and they are typically Dutch. Walsh will suit him because he has worked with the Holland team and will be conversant with Roelant's line of thinking," said a well-placed source.
As head coach of the Netherlands men's team, Walsh guided the Dutch to a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Classified as a Master Coach by the international hockey federation (FIH), Walsh previously served as head coach for the Australian men's team from 1997-2000.
Walsh led Australia to a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. From 2001-03, Walsh served as an elite coaching consultant and software development manager for Sydney-based SportsTec, a leading provider of sports training technology. He also served as a consultant to the US women's team and former national team coach Pam Hixon at the 1996 Olympic Games.
Walsh was first selected to play for Western Australia in 1974 and such was the quality of his debut that he was immediately chosen in the national team for the World Cup in Malaysia in 1975. India won the world championship that year under Ajitpal Singh's captaincy. Walsh went on to play 175 internationals before retiring after Australia's World Cup victory in London in 1986 where he scored one of Australia's two goals in the final against Germany.
Walsh was used almost exclusively as a striker where his great attributes were explosive speed and strength. As he matured as a player, Walsh developed wonderful ball skills and highly perceptive tactical knowledge. A serious knee injury midway through his career somewhat blunted his speed but Walsh adjusted to this with shrewd positional play and exceptional leading qualities.
After four World Cup campaigns, a silver medal at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 and selection for the Moscow and Los Angeles Games, he bowed out in 1986. Walsh was the leading goal-scorer at the 1984 LA Olympics and is acknowledged as one of Australia's finest ever strikers.
Walsh, therefore, will be an expensive hire. Nobbs received a monthly salary of $11000 (AUS) (approximately Rs 75 lakh) when he resigned. Walsh could be asking for close to $15,000 per month with enough paid tickets to fly home. With the value of Indian Rupee crashing (against the US Dollar), SAI will have to dig deep into its already stretched coffers to afford Walsh.
In terms of tenure with Indian teams (read hockey federation), Nobbs has been the most successful. He was appointed in June 2011 and resigned in July 2013 due to acute hypertension. The genial Aussie is now undergoing treatment at home.
With World Cup looming and Rio Games due in 2016, India need a long-term coach to prepare a young team for the ultimate glory, an Olympic medal. A final decision on Walsh will be known next week.