NEW DELHI: Less than 24 hours after Terry Walsh tendered his resignation as chief coach of the Indian men’s hockey team, hectic negotiations and several meetings on Wednesday indicated that the Australian may well continue in his job.
However, status quo remains since Walsh has not formally withdrawn his resignation. He has reiterated that he was willing to re-negotiate the terms of his contract in the next one month. Walsh’s tenure ends on November 19 post his resignation. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has insisted that a new contract would be ready before then.
Walsh, who had a contract till the 2016 Olympics, had put in his papers on Tuesday citing difficulty in adjusting to the decision-making style and bureaucratic confines of the Indian system. On Wednesday, SAI said it was willing to allow greater freedom to the coach.
“His major concern was about the lack of functional autonomy in deciding the technical matters relating to hockey. He was of the view that he, along with the High Performance Director (Roelant Oltmans), need to be given more freedom in the decision making process. From SAI side, we have absolutely no issues on this,” SAI Director General Jiji Thomson said in a statement.
Thomson admitted the issue was not completely resolved. “Walsh has not withdrawn his resignation. As per the contract, he has to give one month notice for resignation. Since the resignation will officially come into effect from November 19, it was decided that the contract will be renewed before that, incorporating these clauses,” he said.
The SAI has proposed a committee comprising all the concerned parties – the sports ministry, the SAI, Hockey India (HI) and Walsh himself — to work out a solution to the problem. Thomson also said that the issue of number of holidays would also be reconsidered and sorted out. While HI was not present during the discussions on Wednesday, it would be part of the next meeting, expected to be held on November 11, after the Indian team returns from its preparatory tour of Australia.
Sports Minister Sarbanand Sonowal, who had sought a report on the entire issue from the Sports Secretary and SAI, tweeted his relief. “I am happy that after SAI’s efforts#TerryWalsh is back. Looking ahead for a bright future for hockey in India,” Sonowal said.
The solution, however, may not be so simple. For one, HI has expressed its reservations, fearing it may trigger similar demands from other foreign coaches. Also, while Thomson has categorically said that the decisions related to day-to-day functioning rested with the federation, HI president Narinder Batra insisted that the SAI and the Sports Ministry have to come on board for the same.
“Something like freedom in team selection is not my prerogative; the ministry guidelines say there has to be a selection committee. Also, infrastructure like turfs and other facilities, which is a big concern for hockey, has to be provided by the government. If the coach and the SAI can work out these issues, then why should I have any problem,” Batra said.