CHENNAI: It was 10 minutes after the end of BPCL’s 1-1 draw with IOC at the 90th All-India MCC Murugappa Gold Cup on Tuesday, but BPCL goal-scorer Tushar Khandekar was already wearing his new garb. The hockey stick had been replaced with a couple of plastic bottles, filled to the brim with protein shakes.
After giving them a good shake, he assembled a couple of players — the side’s youngsters — and gave them the mix. It was Khandekar in his avatar as a strict nutritionist. Like a school principal taking care of a few errant kids after morning prayers.
Khandekar, who also happens to be assistant coach of the Indian men’s national team, sat down with Express to speak about the job, differences in playing against and coaching the same players, and so on. Excerpts...
On differences between coaching and playing
As assistant coach, I share my views with younger kids. People like Akash (Akashdeep Singh), Ramandeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmiah and Manpreet Singh. I’ve also played with the likes of SV Suil for five years. But whenever I enter the field, I play as an athlete; I’m not there as an assistant coach. I’ve told my teammates ‘please let me know when I’m making mistakes, because I’m not the perfect player. I’m still learning hockey’. It’s quite easy to switch from playing to coaching, because you’re not really playing anymore, but the opposite is difficult.
On whether it is strange coaching Raghunath, to playing against him (it happened in Tuesday’s match)
Why is it strange? In fact, I’ve played with and against a few of them when I was a player. It’s easy for me to understand them (the current Indian players) off and on the field.
When I’m on-field, I can understand exactly what they want from me as a player. Same thing when I go from here to the national camp, and international tournaments, I know what they are made of. For example, I know about Manpreet’s strengths and weaknesses.
On becoming a full-time coach
Frankly, I haven’t decided. I’ve got a very young family. Right now, I’m just concentrating on my game, and my work with the national team. But I don’t really know about what can happen in the future (laughs).
On playing/coaching under different people
There is obviously a cultural difference. We’re from an Indian culture, and those coaches, if they are from abroad, bring in their experiences. And it will take time to adapt. Right now, our boys are still learning about the European culture, and the good thing with (Roelant) Oltmans is he is flexible. He understands us and mixes it with the Dutch way of hockey, and takes it from there.