Hockey India (HI) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) were forced back to the drawing table after India couldn't seal a 2014 World Cup squad in Rotterdam last month, where they finished sixth. The clamour for chief coach Michael Nobbs' ouster was growing and finally resulted in SAI sacking him - three years before his contract was to expire.
Failure in Rotterdam was followed by a regular team member telling a news daily, "Under Nobbs, the atomosphere is not healthy." That perhaps led SAI and HI into calling a review meeting of the team's performance under Nobbs since his appointment in June 2011, at the end of which the Australian was on Tuesday served a one-month notice.
During Nobbs's two-year reign, India failed to lay their hands on any major trophy and/or medal, and everytime after showing promise for the future, the team kept slipping further behind at the world stage. That, Nobbs' failure to build the team's bench strength and putting the blame on players is what probably led to his ouster.
File photo of the outgoing Indian men's hockey coach Micahel Nobbs talking to defender VR Raghunath. (Hockey India Image)
Nobbs's focus primarily had been been on players' fitness, which improved considerably, than improving the skill level. It must be said that until the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) last year, which brought young talent to the fore, Nobbs failed to recognise it through various programmes run by HI. Had he been able to do that, players like Mandeep Singh, Gurmail Singh, Amit Rohidas and PT Rao could have been brought into India fold much earlier. His failure to do so becomes apparent when we see India struggling to find a back-up for goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and striker Gurwinder Chandi.
An honest assessment of Nobb's two-year tenure, hence, would be that he didn't perform to the level expected of him, other than taking India back to the Olympics, which remains the highlight of his short stint. Here's a look at his report card:
Asian Champions Trophy, September 2011 - Winners
Nobbs's first assignment was the Asian CT in Ordos, China, and he couldn't have begun on a better note. India went on to win the inaugural event beating archrivals Pakistan 4-2 in a penalty shootout in the final.
Olympic qualifiers, February 2012 - Qualified
Sandeep Singh became the blue-eyed boy of Indian hockey, slamming five goals in the final match against France, which India won 8-0 to book a ticket to the London Games. The moment was special since India missed the 2008 Olympics for the first time in their otherwise illustrious hockey history.
London Olympics, July-August 2012 - Finished 12th
The ecstasy of qualifying for the Olympics was hushed by a last-place finish in London - India's worst ever show in the hockey competition at the Games. India failed to win a single game, but Nobbs blamed the flop show on players.
Champions Trophy, December 2012 - Finished 4th
India ended a step short of redeeming themselves after the Olympics fiasco when they narrowly missed on a Champions Trophy bronze medal in Australia. Nobbs' boys lost the playoff match to Pakistan 2-3.
Asian Champions Trophy, December 2012 - Runners-up
India failed to defend their title, once again going down to neighbours Pakistan 4-5 in the final. Though, it was a young Indian team that performed up to the expectations, Nobbs and his boys had to return empty-handed.
FIH Hockey World League Round 2, February 2013 - Winners
In a competition mostly involving hockey minnows, India finished on top of the leaderboard having won all their matches to progress to Round 3.
FIH Hockey World League Round 3, June 2013 - Finished 6th
Top three finishers here were guaranteed a place in the 2014 World Cup, but India returned home with a sixth-place finish and their hopes of playing the World Cup depending on winning their next assignment - the Asia Cup.