Hockey World Cup 2018: Indian hockey’s High Performance Director David John living on borrowed time

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Hockey India’s self-styled team supremo David John seems to be living on borrowed time and has reportedly been directed to stay away from the Indian team during the ongoing World Cup.

The World Cup jamboree in Bhubaneswar has found space for hockey folks of all hues to play a role, and the mood of hockey fans across the country is upbeat owing to India’s good show in the first two group games, but missing from the scenario is John, whose word was law until recently.

Hockey India sources said John was in Delhi and keeping himself busy with paper-work – hardly a convincing explanation for missing the World Cup played on Indian soil when you were damn serious about being present in Buenos Aires to see the next generation of Indian players just a couple of months ago, even when it came at the expense of the “actual coach” of the junior national squad. The Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games were, of course, significant assignments compared to the World Cup.

David John, reportedly, been directed to stay away from the Indian team during the ongoing World Cup.

David John, reportedly, been directed to stay away from the Indian team during the ongoing World Cup.

The choice of New Delhi as the city for John’s paperwork seems strange. Leaving apart the World Cup featuring 16 teams, there seems no apparent interest in assigning John to Indian women’s camp in Bengaluru, where ex-Australian international Glenn Turner, a World Cup gold medallist, is conducting a clinic at Hockey India’s behest.

It was on assignment as “coach” of the Indian teams at the Young Olympic Games that he learnt about an “officious” note that he had been “officially” barred from playing a role in the selection of the World Cup squad. In response to questions if that actually meant that John would now not pick the side by himself, Hockey India officials only offered shy smiles. No one was willing to even nod his head in agreement, lest it was misconstrued. In any case, there was no mention in the note from staying away from the Indian squad or the World Cup itself.

Appointed Hockey India’s High Performance Director two years ago, John’s word was apparently the law when Indian teams, and even their coaches, were selected. So powerful was his position that players were advised to observe the hint of approval or disapproval in his demeanour to figure out their career options.

Having self-designated himself as the overall team supremo, John was allowed to make drastic policy decisions about team selection for two full years without even a murmur from Hockey India officials. It was tactical approval from the Hockey India bosses for John’s decisions to turn things upside down that several senior players found themselves on the sidelines.

For a man who was the cock of the walk, a small matter like wanting to visit Argentine capital of Buenos Aires seemed to have been blown out of proportion by a sidelined coach. John was designated the coach of both the Indian boys’ and girls’ teams, while Baljit Singh Saini and BJ Kariappa were named managers of the respective sides. No big matter this where Hockey India was concerned.

But strangely, former Indian captain and junior team’s coach Jude Felix sought explanation for his removal as coach of the team for the Youth Olympics. When he was not convinced by the informal comment that he was being sent as coach to the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia, which is said to get the top priority in Hockey India’s plans, Felix actually wrote a letter to Hockey India’s Chief Executive, Elena Norman, wanting to know why he had been dropped as coach of the squad for the Youth Olympics.

Hockey India officials are tight-lipped as to how seriously they took this letter of apparent protest from Felix, but the mood was turning sour where John was considered high-handed.

Around the same time, Hockey India’s newly-elected President, Mushtaque Ahmed, took exception to the comments in the media specifically commenting on the performance of senior players.

No one involved with Hockey India expected a letter to go from the newly-elected President to the CEO, saying: “Observing the bias David John now has against a few players … I have decided David John will not be a part of the senior men’s selection committee for the World Cup. This is to ensure fairness in selection without any prior bias against anyone in anyone’s mind.”

His move from exercise physiology to the high performance director seemed smooth, even if it was interrupted by a stint back home in Australia. But what now?

For the full Hockey World Cup 2018 schedule, click here

For all the results from the Hockey World Cup 2018, click here

For the Hockey World Cup 2018 standings, click here

To read stories from our Hockey World Cup memories series, click here

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Updated Date: Dec 05, 2018 19:17 PM

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