Harendra Singh has been removed as the coach of the India men's senior hockey team after the team failed to qualify directly for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Indian men's hockey team had put a solid show in the Hockey World Cup tournament in Bhubaneswar but their chances of winning a medal in the event after 42 years took a jolt when they were knocked out in the quarterfinals by the Netherlands. Apparently, Hockey India has asked Harendra to go back to the junior program to coach the team while they have invited fresh invitations for the post of senior men's hockey coach. Under Harendra, the team had achieved mixed success and their performance in 2018 was especially disappointing.
Constant chopping and changing of coaches is a frequent phenomenon in Indian hockey and Harendra, who was appointed in May, is the latest casualty. "Though the year 2018 was very disappointing for the Indian Men's Hockey Team with results not going as expected, Hockey India believes investing in the junior program which will reap long-term benefits," HI said in a statement explaining the reasons behind Harendra's axing. The Junior World Cup-winning coach took charge after India's medal-less showing at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games but was unable to change the team's fortunes. India were also below-par in the Asian Games in Indonesia, settling for a bronze after going into the tournament as the defending champions. They ended the year with a quarterfinal loss in the World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
"Hockey India will shortly be advertising and will invite applications for the position of the Chief Coach of the Indian Men's Hockey Team which will be returning to training camp in February 2019 for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup scheduled to commence from 23 March 2019.
"In the interim the team will be overseen by Hockey India High Performance Director, David John and current Analytical Coach, Chris Ciriello," said Hockey India in a statement.
2018 was a disappointing year for India hockey, apart from their failure to break a 43-year medal drought in the World Cup. At the start of the year, Indian Hockey found themselves on the backfoot with the constant changing of players. Even the coaches were not spared. Roelant Oltmans was sacked in the beginning of the year while Sjoerd Marijne was also shown the door. In the Asian Games, the Indian men’s team lost to Malaysia in the semi-finals 6-7 via sudden death penalty shootout. The women’s team was beaten by a less-fancied Japan 2-1 to settle for silver. In the 2018 Commonwealth Games, they lost the bronze medal play-off to England. India’s best performance came in the Hockey Champions Trophy in Breda, Netherlands where they lost 3-1 to Australia in penalties in the final.