Demand to sack coach Sandeep shocks hockey circles

By Anand Philar, IANS,

New Delhi : A sense of shock and disbelief pervaded the Indian women’s hockey camp following the reported demand of government observer and former captain Rupa Saini for removal of chief coach Sandeep Somesh and his assistant Khalid Modi.

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The justification for the demand is the team’s performance in the World Cup in Argentina (Aug 29-Sept 3) where India lost their opening three games, but eventually finished a creditable ninth.

Neither Somesh nor Modi were willing to react to the story, but it was evident they were taken by surprise at the latest development in Indian women’s hockey, which was hit by a sex scandal in July involving the then chief coach Maharaj Krishan Kaushik.

Kaushik subsequently resigned just a day before the team’s departure to Busan, South Korea, for the inaugural Asian Women’s Champions Trophy where India, coached by Somesh and Modi, won a bronze medal, defeating China, ranked No.3 in the World.

“We haven’t seen the papers,” said the two coaches and that was as far they were willing to go in offering a comment on the latest development.

But those in the know point to the fact that Saini had made similar demands in 2008 when Somesh and Modi were first picked to coach the national team under Kaushik.

“Saini has been gunning for the two since then, though nobody is quite sure why,” said an official on the condition of anonymity.

Saini had accompanied the Indian team to Argentina as the manager and the official Thursday wondered whether she had exceeded her brief in commenting on the coaches.

But the latest development is in keeping with the historical trend in Indian hockey where controversies have been more a rule than exception ahead of any major tournament.

Those familiar with the situation believe that there is more to it than meets the eye considering the timing of the latest controversy, less than a week before the commencement of the competition.

India won the gold medal in 2002 Games at Manchester and silver in 2006 at Melbourne, and are among the favourites for a medal at the Games here.