Charlesworth wants India-Australia men’s hockey final in Tokyo Olympics

Visibly impressed by the progress made by India over the last decade, hockey legend Ric Charlesworth on Sunday said that an India-Australia summit clash is a possibility in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Charlesworth, who was associated with the Indian set-up in the past, feels that the eight-time Olympic champions have improved a lot in the last decade, which makes them a medal contender in Tokyo.

India are currently ranked fourth in the world rankings.

“I feel both India and Australia have teams to win medals. The Olympics is often very unpredictable, so we will have to see what happens,” he told PTI during the third Hockey India Awards here.

“I would love to see an Olympics hockey final between India and Australia. That will be the best final,” said Charlesworth, a World Cup winner both as player and coach.

The 68-year-old master tactician, who also played first class cricket for Western Australia, credited erstwhile Hockey India League for India’s growth and said the franchise-based event needs to be revived quickly.

The HIL was put on hold in 2018 after five successful seasons for varied reasons, ranging from unhappy franchises and financial concerns.

“I said 10 years ago that it’s a 10 year job to be really competitive. The Hockey India was a catalyst I feel,” Charlesworth said.

“Hockey internationally and in this country needs to find a place where it can be played because I think it (HIL) was a critical part of making a psychological shift which India needed to say ‘yeah! we can compete with anybody’.

“I feel the HIL needs to be revived to keep India abreast with world hockey.”

Charlesworth believes India can’t afford to relax a bit, considering the competitiveness of world hockey.

“They (India) need to keep working, international hockey is very competitive. In Australia and India, we get carried away with cricket because both the countries are pretty good at cricket but cricket is played only by a half a dozen countries,” he said.

“Hockey is much harder to do well, the international scene is pretty competitive. You have to work very hard and keep changing and improving. India was the innovator in hockey 50 years ago. They lost direction for a while but now they are in the way back.”

Charlesworth rated Graham Reid as a good coach and feels the Australian has made a significant improvement in India’s game since taking over the charge of the team in April last year.

“He (Reid) is a good coach. When I was a young player all our coaches were from the subcontinent. We learnt our hockey from here. Australians working with Indian teams make sense,” he said.

With the novel coronavirus threatening the Olympics, the Australian great said it is still not sure whether the Summer Games can be organised as per schedule.

“Firstly, I am still not sure it (Olympics) will be held on time. May be it has to be delayed to October because there is a range of issues there, including the recent coronavirus outbreak,” said, Charlesworth, who is in India to develop an academy for football and hockey in Chandigarh.

He gave a thumbs up to the FIH Pro League but feels the need of the hour is an Indian Ocean League to develop the sport in the southern hemisphere.

“I would like to see an Indian Ocean League where you have competitions between ourselves (India and Australia), New Zealand, Malaysia. It will be an interesting competition in the southern hemisphere,” he signed off.