CHENNAI: Graham Reid is a versatile man who likes a challenge or two. One casual scroll through his LinkedIn profile reveals as much. “Graham has enjoyed a raft of differentiating experiences during his 30-year career, including world’s best high-performance and elite sport...” it says. He’s also not just a sport man. He has worked “in and around industries such as oil and gas, mining, credit insurance, stockbroking, manufacturing, wholesaling, retail, SEO, SEM and many more.”
But his next job — coach of the Indian men’s national hockey team — could be his most challenging. As soon as Hockey India (HI) announced that Reid would be taking over, the jokes started flowing in. “How long before he is sacked,” one poster asked on social media. Even if the Australian was tipped for the role since February, a slight delay had another poster worried. “Hopefully, he will join the team before HI fires him.”
A perception like that exists because the former midfielder, who coached Australia to multiple titles from 2014 to 2016, becomes the 26th India head coach in 25 years; one coach roughly every 350 days. Nevertheless, the 48-year-old, whose contract is till December 2020, is looking forward to the new chapter. “It’s an honour and a privilege,” an HI release quoted him as saying. “No other country has a history in this sport that can compare to India...”
Simon Orchard, one of Reid’s wards during his time with the Kookaburras, said he knows the game pretty well. “He’s a got a strong analytical mind, his system and structures are sound.” Orchard, who was in the team when they failed to get out of the group stages at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, said a lot of factors went into that disappointment “(...) he had to take a decision whether to change the way we play or stick to what we know,” after Ric Charlesworth quit after leading them to the World Cup in 2014. “He chose to recreate a brand of hockey that was synonymous with him. He had inherited a brand of hockey that was successful for so long and he tried to put some subtle changes to it but unfortunately by the time we got to the Olympics (...) teams worked out how to combat our style.”
The 32-year-old also mentioned that Reid likes to dabble with off the field stuff like psychology. “(...) learning about one another, trying to know each other... we tried hard to get out of our comfort zones but that didn’t rub some people the right way and he lost a couple of players along the way. Graham probably lacked a little bit of authority in delivering his message.”
Reid’s first big assignment will be guiding the team to the two-legged Olympic qualifiers at the Hockey Series Finals in Bhubaneswar in June. Orchard feels that it will come down to what school Reid will adopt with the Olympics next year. “Does he change everything and put the Indian boys out of their comfort zone to the point where they start thinking, ‘is this the right guy for the job because he is doing things that we never had to do’. Or does he say, ‘look, I like what I have got. We just keep playing the way you have been and hope we get success that way.’”
Sjoerd Marijne tried the former and was sacked within a year. Harendra Singh tried the latter and was sacked within a year. Which path will Reid pick?