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Michael Nobbs appointed chief coach

Special Correspondent

Mohd. Riaz, Clarence Lobo and Jugraj to assist him

— Photo: PTI

NEW CHALLENGE: Michael Nobbs is excited at the prospect of guiding the Indian team.

NEW DELHI: He loves Indian hockey, its flair and fluency. It is quite close to what he had practised and later preached in Australian hockey. The result was Michael Nobbs landing up the job of India's chief hockey coach here on Wednesday. His credentials were found superior to the other two candidates, both Dutch, Roelant Oltmans and Jacques Brinkman.

The 57-year-old Australian's name was finalised after a series of interactions with officials from Hockey India (HI) and the Sports Authority of India (SAI). A formal approval from the Union Sports Ministry is awaited. Nobbs has been offered a five-year contract.

Unanimous choice

Nobbs' presentation was considered the most impressive. According to SAI Director General Desh Deepak Verma, “His selection was based on many factors. It was a unanimous choice. His organisational capabilities went in his favour and what weighed heavily was the fact that he advocates the Australian style, which is our traditional style.”

His work begins with a five-day stint at the camp at the Bangalore from July 3. “I am excited to accept this job and I have not had any reservations before coming here for the interview,” said Nobbs, who, along with the other two coaches, had been briefed about the system and culture in India and also the importance and compulsions of the bureaucracy. The candidates had also been told of the circumstances that led to the departure of Ric Charlesworth and Jose Brasa.

Nobbs said, “I have been brought up on Indian hockey, trained by Indian coaches and we continue to play the Indian way (5-3-2). I have been promised a free hand. I don't want a complete say in selection matters because it is important to have inputs from various quarters. But I want the final say.”

He confessed he was saddened by India's hockey decline and he last saw the team “three years ago” but was confident things will improve because “we all have to think in the same direction.”

Nobbs has also been allowed to enrol two Australian assistants to help him draw the plans and structure for Indian hockey.

The new coach's appointment carries many clauses that favour him. A performance-based incentive has been added where the coach stands to gain a ten per cent increase in his package which currently stands at $ (Aus)10,000 a month. “The incentives will be revised periodically,” said Mr. Verma.

Long-term vision

In what is seen as a first in Indian sport, a long-term arrangement with a foreign coach, Nobbs' work will include preparing coaches at various levels. “He is going to develop a coaching structure for Indian hockey so that there is a uniform pattern down the line. That is the long-term vision we are looking at,” said a key member of the interview panel.

Since Australia is the undisputed leader in world hockey, the interview panel considered the pros and cons of having Nobbs as the coach. The panel was of the view that the Australian style suited Indian players the most and Nobbs could drive home the advantage of adapting to the European style if the need arises.

“The Australians are the fittest and strike in a flurry. That is the key in modern hockey,” was the observation of an Olympian, who supported the candidature of Nobbs.

The Dutch coaches lost out due to “uncertainty factor.” Oltmans needed clearance from his national sports federation with whom he is contracted until 2012 while Brinkman expressed his inability to take over before August, having confirmed his “holiday plans” with his family. HI was not in favour of wasting a month for the new coach to take over.

Nobbs is considered a soft-spoken but tough man with his mastery lying in fitness, diet and a splendid quality to analyse the minus points of the opposition. HI has assured him “full support” and freedom from any pressure.

“We want him to put a coaching structure in place so that when he leaves India will have a panel of coaches to pick from. He will hold clinics and also engage junior coaches who will time and again attend senior camps also.

“He has done this job in Australia and we expect him to deliver here too. He was a good player and is considered a good coach,” said Olympian Pargat Singh.

A new chapter has begun in Indian hockey. Mohammad Riaz, Clarence Lobo and Jugraj Singh will be the assistants while Nobbs' compatriot David John is the physical trainer.

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