INTERVIEW: Dhanraj Pillay

Dhanraj Pillay

Dhanraj Pillay
Dhanraj Pillay

By Sandip Sikdar 

Unhappy that a Dutch has been made the new chief coach for the men’s national team, legendary hockey player Dhanraj Pillay said an Indian would have been the best option for the post.

In association with Hockey India (HI), the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has named that Paul van Ass will take charge of the Indian team following Terry Walsh’s ouster last year.

“An Indian coach is the best option for the country. Language barrier is a big problem for the boys. I have seen it myself. In my own team, Uttar Pradesh Wizards, I saw how much problem we had. Our Indian players don’t understand their English because of their accent,” Dhanraj told IANS in an interview.

The 46-year-old is the technical director of Hockey India League (HIL) franchise UP Wizards where Dutchman Roelant Oltmans is the head coach.

The former India captain said the fortunes of Indian hockey have not changed despite the federation bringing in foreign coaches for quite a while.

“In the last 10 years, have the foreign coaches taken the team to another level? No. They are still there. The level has not gone up. It is the same when Indian coaches were there during my playing days,” said Dhanraj, whose illustrious international career spanned from 1989 to 2004.

“If HI, the government, the sports ministry are thinking that foreign coaches are better… let us see how good the new coach will be.”

Pillay earned 339 international caps, and led India to the 1998 Asian Games gold and the 2003 Asia Cup win. He was a prolific centre forward and is the only hockey player in the world to have played in four World Cups, four Olympics, four Champions Trophy and four Asian Games.

Asked about the appointment of van Ass, who led the Netherlands to an Olympic silver in 2012 in London, the four-time Olympian refused to comment. “I will talk later when the time is right.”

The third edition of the HIL which concluded on February 22 saw Ranchi Rays lift the title. Though the league, which also has the best players across the globe taking part, has helped Indian players financially in an enormous way, is the month-long league enough to raise the standard of hockey in India?

“We have found some players in the last three years who have gone on to play for India. Nikkin Thimmaiah, Pradeep More, Ramandeep Singh and many others, they all came out of this league,” said Dhanraj, who also played in four World Cups.