in the hot seat
IN THE NEWS
Jack in the hot seat
India’s new hockey coach, Joaquim ‘Jack’ Carvalho, aims to reverse the team’s fortunes by combining traditional methods of training with new techniques, writes Anand Philar
Since his playing days, Indian hockey has slumped to an abysmal low, but newly appointed coach Joaquim Carvalho is confident that he can not only arrest the slide but also mastermind an upswing.
Having been part of the 1984 Olympic squad, considered as one of the strongest to leave the Indian shores in the past two decades or so, he finds himself in the hot seat as he seeks to resurrect the country’s hockey fortunes.
Carvalho, fondly called Jack by his friends, admitted that he was taken off-guard when the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) offered him the post.
"It did take me by surprise, but after giving it a lot of thought and discussing with my friends and family, I decided to take up the offer. In turn, the IHF agreed to give me the support staff that I wanted and also a say in team selection," he said.
Carvalho opted for two of his closest friends and former India team-mates, MM Somayya and Mervyn Fernandes, as members of his support staff to look into technical matters, with Mohinder Pal Singh, former ace penalty-corner expert, and Ramesh Parameswaran as assistant coaches.
In many ways, Carvalho is a self-made coach who believes that players learn more and quicker on the field than through computers and whiteboards. Unlike a typical modern-day coach, he hates to be "wired" or "stay connected" 24/7 and treats his cellphone as an unavoidable nuisance than a necessity. His baggage does not include a laptop.
"I am not against modern technology but you need to understand that a player can absorb only so much of information at a time. During my playing days, I spent boring hours listening to lectures from my coaches or watching match videos and promptly forgot them the minute I left the room.
"It’s no different these days. So, I prefer to keep my sessions short, precise and to the point. No frills or fancy words. Keep it simple and talk to the players in a language they understand."
The video sessions are short and specific to errors committed on the field. These video analyses are usually done closer to the match rather than days in advance so that these would remain fresh in their mind.
"No player can sit through an entire 70-minute video recording of a match. I pick out certain segments or specific situations to help the player analyse his mistakes. It’s the same when we do our homework on our opponents. We target specifics, devise a plan and allot individual responsibility. That way, each player is aware of his role in our overall scheme," he said.
During on-field training sessions, he directs the proceedings with authority and woe betide the player who is slack or late to report.
"I like to see energetic players whether in training or a match and of course, punctual. There has to be a sense of purpose," was his assertion.
When asked whether he was being too dominant or over-bearing, pat came the reply: "No way. But there has to be some discipline at all times and since I have been put in charge, I would like to ensure that everything is in order and the way I want it to be.
"After all, I am aware that when the team is doing well, then everyone sings your praises, but the same people will knock you down when we do not perform to expectations.
"In the present case, you need to appreciate the fact that it’s a young team with a lot of fresh faces. Some of them take time to mature as international players and there are others who are quick learners and develop faster. At the end of the day, coaching is about man-management, knowing the players’ attitudes, moods and ability."
At his peak, Carvalho was one of the few Indian players who courageously stood up to the "man-mountain" Europeans. Never hesitant to use his body to break up an attack, he occupied the key central position in the midfield when Balkishen Singh introduced the fourth half-back concept back in the 1980s.
"I consider Balkishen as my guru and I owe him a lot. I still follow his coaching techniques and strategies," said Carvalho, who had a two-year stint with Oman prior to taking charge of the Indian Oil team.
Aware of the speculation that he favoured mostly Indian Oil players in the current Indian team, Carvalho said, "And why not? There was a time when the national team had about 11 players from Indian Airlines. As for me, I do not play favourites. If a player has merit or performance to back him, then he is in. If he happens to be from Indian Oil, so be it."
His current coaching
assignment, which has started with the ongoing Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in
Ipoh (Malaysia), is up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "I am not the
sort who aspires a plum post or hang on to it. There is a certain amount
of pressure being the chief coach of a national team, but it does not
worry me a bit. I have a job to do and the day I feel I am not
performing, I will quit. It’s as simple as that." — PTI
Like Team India, pugnacious left-hander Dinesh Mongia is on a "Mission Redemption". In the past, he has rarely delivered when it mattered the most. The ongoing ODI series against Bangladesh is perhaps the last chance for the 30-year-old to cement his place in the side.
A fighter to the core, this uncomplicated stroke-maker did enough with the bat and ball for Leicestershire in English county cricket to be in the reckoning for the World Cup. But he was ignored, only to be picked for the current series after India’s ignominious exit from the showpiece event.
Mongia remained on the fringes and played four matches between September last year and March this year, of which two were in South Africa, including a Twenty20 game. His valiant 63 not out against Australia in the Kuala Lumpur tri-series went in vain as India lost the match by 18 runs.
He has made at least three comebacks and the most memorable was when he forced his way back into the World Cup squad in 2003. However, after that, he has been a journeyman for sometime before standing in for Carl Hooper for Lancashire and then blossoming with Leicestershire last year.
Prior to the Bangladesh tour, he has scored 1,196 runs in 55 ODIs at an average of 28.47 and taken 11 wickets at 42.27 apiece.
Having made his debut against Australia in 2001, Mongia showed all the promise of an all-rounder with a wide array of shots and slow left-arm orthodox spin, but never really lived up to that billing consistently.
Hopefully, the Bangladesh
tour will change all that. "I just don’t want to do badly,"
he adds. — Agencies
Au revoir, Kim
AT 23, it was perhaps too early for Kim Clijsters to bid adieu to international tennis. However, the Belgian had struggled with injury over the past few years, which often hampered her from performing at the peak of her powers.
She will be remembered as the biggest under-achiever of contemporary women’s tennis. During her career, Clijsters managed to win just one Grand Slam title — the 2005 US Open — while she finished runner-up four times.
Born on June 8, 1983, in Bilzen, Belgium, Clijsters made her senior tournament debut on the ITF circuit in 1997 in Koksijde, Belgium, losing in the quarterfinals. She won her first WTA Tour title two years later at Luxembourg.
She broke into the world’s top 20 for the first time in 2000 with titles in Hobart and Leipzig.
In 2001, she became the first Belgian to reach a Grand Slam final, when she made it to the French Open summit clash, where she was beaten 10-12 in the deciding set by Jennifer Capriati. The same year, she helped Belgium to their first Fed Cup title.
She advanced to the semifinals at the Australian Open in 2002, losing again to eventual champion Capriati.
She reached her second Roland Garros final in 2003 but lost to compatriot Justine Henin. However, she claimed the women’s doubles title with Ai Sugiyama and then added the Wimbledon title with her Japanese partner. In August that year, she became the first Belgian world number one in tennis. She again faltered at the final hurdle when she lost to Henin at the 2003 US Open and the 2004 Australian Open.
Her Grand Slam title wait ended in 2005 when she returned from injury and beat Mary Pierce in the US Open final. She regained the number one ranking in January, 2006, for seven weeks, becoming the first player in Tour history to reach the top spot from outside the world’s 100 in a 12-month span.
Later that year, she retired from the semifinals of the Australian Open against eventual champion Amelie Mauresmo with a sprained ankle, and later lost in the semis of the French Open and Wimbledon to Henin. She wasn’t able to defend her US Open title due to a wrist injury.
In her last Grand Slam tournament, she reached the semifinals of the Australian Open earlier this year, losing to top seed Maria Sharapova. her swansong wasn’t a glorious one as she went down to Ukrainian qualifier Julia Vakulenko in the second round of the Warsaw Cup last week.
Clijsters, who split up with Australian tennis star Lleyton Hewitt a few years ago, is all set to start a new chapter with her marriage to American basketball player Brian Lynch in July. — Agencies
Ray of hoop
His father and brother have been national athletes, but 20-year-old Jagdeep Singh Bains has found his metier in basketball. Jagdeep, who belongs to Sriganganagar, Rajasthan, is regarded as one of the best hoopsters in the country today.
His initiation into the game took place about five years ago thanks to a chance meeting with his father’s friend, basketball coach Dr Subramaniam. "Seeing my height and build, he advised me to take up basketball," recalls Jagdeep. "I promptly joined the Baba Lodhiana Academy and started honing my skills under Dr Subramaniam’s supervision."
The 6-ft, 7-inch Jagdeep was part of the Indian squad at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games last year. Though the team could not perform very well, he impressed experts with his agility and accuracy. He scored 20 points in the match against Australia.
"The exposure I got at Melbourne helped me to improve my game and learn new ‘tricks of the trade’. Playing against top teams of the world is very demanding," says Jagdeep, who plays as an all-rounder on the court.
He also represented the country at the Asian Basketball Championship in Qatar (2005), where the team finished eighth.
In 2002, when he was just a fledgling, Jagdeep went to China as part of the team for the Pepsi Cup Asian School Championship. In 2003, he represented India in the International Invitation Tournament in Kuwait.
Jagdeep travelled to Teheran to participate in the FIBA Asia Championship for Young Men in 2004, while the following year, he played in the 1st FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup and William Jones Cup, both held in Taiwan.
He also played in the Senior Asian Basketball Championship at Doha in 2005.
Jagdeep is considered to be a very talented player by his coach and Teja Singh, general secretary of the Punjab Basketball Association. "His agility, holding, throwing and dodging are on a par with that of the world’s top-class players," gushes Dr Subramaniam.
About the standard of the game in India, Jagdeep says, "Our players have potential, and there is good infrastructure available. However, foreign players are ahead of us because they have advanced training programmes. There is not much money in the sport, which explains why it is not very popular in India."
The international cager, who was
appointed as ASI recently by Punjab Police, is optimistic that the sport would
catch on in the country in the near future.