Graham Reid is now the coach of Indian men's hockey team. The story of this side over the last few years has been of one-step forward and two steps back. Great performances at the last two editions of Champions Trophy were followed by disappointing results at the 2016 Olympics and 2018 World Cup.
Australia has been one of the biggest exporters of coaches in Indian hockey. Ric Charlesworth and Michael Nobbs were earlier brought in to resurrect Indian team's fortunes. So, can Reid do what his compatriot predecessors couldn't? Only time will tell. But there are some clear challenges which the former Kookaburra has to deal with.
Demands of administrators
Reid has been, in all probability, given the job with the Olympics in mind. "We are hopeful his experience and expertise will help the Indian Men's Hockey Team achieve desirable results leading up to and at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," Mohammed Mushtaque Ahmad, Hockey India President said in his official statement.
However, if we have learnt anything from administrators in Hockey, it is that no coach is safe in his position. The removal of Harendra Singh after 2018 World Cup, preceded by the transfer of Sjoerd Marijne and the axing of Roelant Oltmans prior to that, all testify to this. He may be the man chosen to lead the team into next year's Olympics. But poor results, or even average ones, may put his place in jeopardy also.
Dealing with talent
Reid will shortly join the national camp taking place in Bengaluru involving the top-60 players of the country. While there are some experienced pros – like SV Sunil and P Sreejesh – most players in this group are young.
Many of them belong to the team which won the Junior World Cup of 2016. Mandeep Singh and Manpreet are two of the most prominent. Grooming these youngsters into top players of the world is the big task ahead of him.
Modernising the team
For the longest time, Indian hockey has looked behind the curve. Whether it was in getting used to the astro-turfs or reaching the levels of fitness modern hockey requires, adjustment came later. The current problem seems to be the new format of penalty-shootout.
It was in this format that India lost the last two Champions Trophy finals to Australia – Reid was coaching Australia during the first of these two events, Asian Games semi-final to Malaysia and recently, the Sultan Azlan Shah final to South Korea. Maybe this is the area where change needs to come first.