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Apr 25, 2012, 02.54 PM IST
Michael Nobbs is rebuilding Indian hockey. But first, he had to destroy it. In the future, sports historians will mark February 26, 2012, as the day Indians rediscovered their national sport.
Ric Charlesworth lost this battle. He remembers putting together a list of 10 things he wanted the authorities to do. “Number one on the list was that everyone on the contract would get paid. We didn’t get to number two. It was impossible to get anyone to make a decision. No one knew where the money went.”
Australia has a reputation for marrying passion for sports with a scientific approach. David John, also Australian, and part of the Nobbs core team, says that the sports authorities in Australia employ over 80 people with doctorate degrees in nutrition; in India, he hasn’t met a single one yet.
“But,” he says, “it’s not just about science. It’s also about the story. It’s in making every team member believe in the same story.”
The story he’s convinced everyone to believe in is that they have to break into the top six. “We are more confident of our game, skill and physical capabilities than ever before,” says Bharat Chetri, the team’s affable captain. Once you’re at that stage, the differences between teams are minor. As two-time Olympian MM Somaiya says, “It’s anybody’s game on a good day.”
It also helps that Nobbs, like Jobs, knows how to say no. “It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, one of the first things he did was cut down the product line and focus the company’s attention on where he saw its future lie; Apple’s turnaround is as much about what Jobs chose not to do.
Nobbs decided that his A team wouldn’t play every tournament. His reasoning: There are only five or six big tournaments which give a real push to a team’s ranking. The national team should focus on winning those critical tournaments, leaving the rest to the junior team, so they get exposure.
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