First casualty of hockey WC debacle: Graham Reid resigns as India's chief coach 

Reid, who was appointed India coach in April 2019, led the team to a historic bronze medal finish at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Published: 30th January 2023 08:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 31st January 2023 08:52 AM   |  A+A-

Graham Reid. (File Photo)

Chief coach of Indian men's hockey team, Graham Reid. (File Photo)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The only surprising thing about the whole thing has been the speed at which it has unravelled. When Graham Reid refused to commit to his short-term future following a routine win over Japan in a classification match last week, the writing was clear. For all intents and purposes, the Australian coach was already on his way out.

"I have signed through till Paris (Olympics in 2024)," he had said after the game. "I have signed a contract. But we'll review, I assume at the end of this (World Cup). But the next game is what I'm focussing on."

His 'next game' — South Africa as it turned out — turned out to be his final match as chief coach of the men's national hockey team.

On Sunday night, he asked the team to assemble for a meeting where he exchanged pleasantries and bid them farewell. He also reminded the players of what they were capable of on the field after he had broken the news to them.

Reid, who was appointed India coach in April 2019, led the team to a historic bronze medal finish at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

On Monday, Hockey India confirmed that Reid and two assistant coaches — Greg Clark (analytical coach) and Mitchell Pemberton (scientific advisor) — accepted their resignation letters and they will leave their posts after serving a one-month notice period.

"It is now time for me to step aside and hand over the reins to the next management," Reid was quoted as saying by HI. "It has been an honour and privilege to work with the team and Hockey India and I have enjoyed every moment of this epic journey. I wish the team all the very best."

Considering the quiet disquiet between both parties, this was always going to be the logical endgame and perhaps could have happened even before the World Cup. In fact, HI was open to the idea of letting Reid go a few months after he had coached the national team to an Olympic bronze in Tokyo. After India, fielding a slightly experimental side in the Asian Champions Trophy at Dhaka, returned with only a bronze, murmurs of disapproval could be heard in the corridors of HI. But HI officials failed to reach a consensus and Reid, who had enough goodwill in the bank, remained in the job.

But, the frustration was clearly visible in him as well, even a year ago. While HI didn't like some of the results, Reid had noted that one of his main support staff was allowed to walk. Robin Arkell, who had played such a pivotal role in making the Indian men's side one of the fittest in the world, walked soon after the Olympics. It was very clear a failure on the part of HI, who by all accounts, didn't even attempt to try and retain his services (these days, India's fitness requirement is very basic compared to the standards that was being demanded by Arkell).

One very popular replacement was waiting to be called but the call never went. The end result was the team went without a proper trainer on board for a significant period of time. All this contributed to a below-par 2022 where the team frequently found itself lacking in fitness, an area where they were masters previously. That was most evident in that lop-sided 7-0 defeat in the Commonwealth Games final against Australia.

While it was possible that Reid could have been asked to leave after that final, it was too close to the World Cup to take that call. So, the status quo continued. By the time the team where in the camp in Bengaluru in December a month before the World Cup, there was unease within. Some had privately begun to wonder if Tokyo was a peak and not the start of something special.

Next challenge is world champions
As soon as HI president, Dilip Tirkey, made it known that the body would be asking questions — as they are entitled to do — it was going to be a matter of time. While there are conflicting reports (was he asked to go or did he walk or was it a mix of both), one thing HI don't have is time. They have to bring in new staff in time for the next batch of Pro League games, scheduled to be held in Rourkela from March 10. India face Germany and Australia twice in a matter of a week before they travel to London for games against Belgium and Great Britain in May.

The big assignment, though, is the Asian Games in September which will double up as an Olympic qualifier. Tirkey has a big contacts book so there will be no problems in reaching out to coaches but will they be receptive to the idea? Time will answer that question.


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