New Delhi: Legendary Australian coach Ric Charlesworth feels that the recent success in international events proves that India are fast improving but to become a force to reckon with again in world hockey, the past masters of the game need to be more "organised and disciplined".
After a disastrous Olympic campaign in London where they finished last, the fourth-place finish at the prestigious Champions Trophy in Melbourne and the second spot in the Asian Champions Trophy in Doha came as a soothing balm for Indian hockey, trying to regain its footing after a steady decline during the past decade.
But Charlesworth said India need time to return to the top in world hockey. "India is improving but it will not suddenly happen that India is at the top of the podium," Charlesworth told PTI in an exclusive interview.
"India can be better organised and disciplined. They have skill but some of it is soft skill rather than being more robust. The rules have changed and India needs to adjust," observed the Aussie, who had a tumultuous 10-month association with the Indian hockey team as technical advisor in 2008.
Charlesworth said "hard work and patience" are key to Indian hockey's revival. "Work hard, be patient, build the game at every level both men and women and always watch and learn from others. Given the potential and numbers in India anything is possible," he said. He also lauded countrymate and chief coach Michael Nobbs for his work with the Indian hockey team since taking up the pressure cooker job in June 2011.
"It's a tough job and he (Nobbs) is sticking in there. Charlesworth is one of the coaches in the upcoming Hockey India League, and feels the franchise-based IPL-style event has the potential to do wonders for Indian hockey. "The chief benefit of HIL will be for the Indian players and the game in India. Of course, the foreign players will enjoy the experience as all hockey players enjoy the challenge of competing with the best," said the Aussie who will coach the Mumbai Magicians in January 14-February 10 league.
"The beginning is always hard but if the hockey is good it (HIL) will work." Even though Mumbai Magicians is devoid of star players except for out-of-favour India drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, Charlesworth is satisfied with the composition of his team. "You can always have a better team and the auction process was difficult. We have no big stars but we are young and will be competitive," said the master coach, who also played cricket for Western Australia.
Under Charlesworth's guidance, Australia has won every major title in world hockey except for the 2012 London Olympics, where the Kookaburras had to be content with the bronze medal. Asked about the London Games, he described the experience as "painful".
"Of course, the (London) Olympics was painful because we aim to win every tournament in which we play. We let the Olympics slip in a careless few minutes," he said. After Charlesworth took over the charge in 2009, the Kookaburras went on to win the 2009 Champions Trophy in Melbourne; the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi; the 2010 Champions Trophy in Mnchengladbach, Germany; and the gold medal in 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
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