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Cannot Blame Graham Reid, Indian Players Did Not Give Their Best at Hockey World Cup: Ex-India Captain V Baskaran

By: Ujwal Singh


Last Updated: February 02, 2023, 09:37 IST

New Delhi, India

Indian coach Graham Reid and skipper Harmanpreet Singh (IANS photo)

Indian coach Graham Reid and skipper Harmanpreet Singh (IANS photo)

1980 Olympics gold-medallist V Baskaran came down heavily on Indian players reacting to coach Graham Reid's resignation after Hockey World Cup 2023

Former India men’s hockey team captain V Baskaran, who led them to their last gold medal at the 1980 Olympics, came down heavily on the players after the dismal show at the recently concluded World Cup. Hosts India finished ninth with Germany lifting the title in Bhubaneswar on 29 January.

Hosting the World Cup for a second consecutive edition, India were expected to at least reach the semi-finals – something that they’ve not achieved since 1975. A drought-breaking bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, first medal since 1980 Summer Games, gave good reason to be optimistic. However, the team, coached by Graham Reid and captained by Harmanpreet Singh, failed to live up to the expectations as they lost to a lowly New Zealand in the crossover match to get knocked out.

To make matters worse, coach Graham Reid resigned immediately after the showpiece event came to an end. While Reid had come under criticism for India’s below-par performance, Baskaran feels the blame lies with the players for failing to produce their ‘A game’ at the highest level.


Baskaran, ex-India captain and coach at the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, discussed what could have led to India’s under-par outing in the World Cup, Reid’s resignation and the way forward for Indian hockey.


What’s your reaction to Graham Reid resigning as India coach, especially after we improved so drastically under him?

He turned India into a competitive unit. We improved on multiple fronts under his tenure. The first thing he improved was we stopped conceding goals in the last two minutes. On the Australia tour before the World Cup, we saw the team bouncing back from 2-1 down to win a match 4-3. The resignation is his own decision. His decision along with his contribution has to be respected before we start talking about why he resigned or who can replace him. That is the Australian culture. A culture in which if you don’t produce results then you own it. In my opinion, he should have definitely continued. Before resigning, he should have consulted Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey. Dilip himself being an Olympian would have understood the situation.

What do you think must have forced Reid to resign from his post despite being so highly successful and helping India break the Olympic medal drought?

I have heard, however how true I don’t know, that some of the players are not happy with the coaching. That’s our Indian players’ attitude. You cannot blame the coach, the execution has to be done by the players. In the World Cup, everyone talked about PC (penalty corner) conversion, but somewhere down the line, the players did not give their best. If the players don’t give their best whatever game plan or training you make (won’t work). The same team minus four players did so well against Germany in the last Olympics, bouncing back from 1-3 down and winning bronze.

People expected this team to perform at a much higher level. First I speak as a player. The fire in the Indian team was missing from what it was at the Olympics. Even if you take out Rupinder Pal Singh, Simranjit Singh, Dilpreet Singh and Gurjant Singh, there was enough experience in the squad. Comparing them to Europeans, the Netherlands is a brand new team. How did those players execute at the highest level? That is missing from Indian players. Another thing is maybe Graham Reid may have felt a celebrity culture in the team. The Indian players may have thought that they are celebrities.

Graham Reid (Hockey India Image)

Where do we go from here? With Hockey Pro League resuming in March and Asian Games in nine months, how should Hockey India proceed further?

From here where we go, is Hockey India’s plan. Whether we continue with the same players or we will have a new setup. In March we have the Pro League. In my opinion, the core group was not consistent. I can ask so many questions: how did Varun Kumar come back into the core group? After coming back from England, he was removed and then he came back suddenly. The fitness of Lalit Upadhyay, a good player, but he had suffered an injury (knee) a while back. Some sharpness was missing in the forward line. All the other teams when they failed to get PC goals, got field goals. We should have had more forwards in the squad of 18 instead of having just four. The identification of the forward line was not very aggressive and that put pressure on the midfield.

Do you then think it will be wise to have an Indian coach now considering that there are so many top competitions coming up and very little time for anyone to adapt and settle down?

First thing, Hockey India should have an advisory committee in hockey just like we have in cricket. To select the coach. A search committee for the players. Dilip himself has been a great player so he should be able to do the right things. We need to have a committee to do things in an organised and proper way. Because we have an Olympics coming next year.

Going back to Reid asking for a mental conditioning coach for India. What are your thoughts on that?

I disagree. The same team won the bronze medal without a mental coach. Let’s be very honest we have players who have played over 200 games. The same team after being one goal down got four goals to win the bronze medal. If you win, it’s hard work. When you lose, it’s due to a lack of a mental conditioning coach. Winning is about a lot of right decisions.

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first published:February 02, 2023, 09:29 IST
last updated:February 02, 2023, 09:37 IST
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