Former India hockey ace Keshav Dutt has slammed the Indian Hockey Federation for its inability to chalk out a long-term plan and called for infusing fresh blood into the national squad by sacking over-the-hill players.
Describing India's recent performances, including the seventh place finish at the Rabo Trophy in the Netherlands as "pathetic", Dutt said the players looked "incohesive" with individual brilliance showing up only in patches.
Dutt, a member of the gold medal-winning Indian teams at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, also pulled up incumbent skipper Dilip Tirkey for not being "tough in his approach".
"We need a strong captain. The present skipper is not tough enough," the 78-year-old said.
While opposing the appointment of foreign coaches, he said, "There is no dearth of able coaches in India. Our players should learn from Indian coaches. But the players need to be more disciplined."
He felt the IHF should make up its mind whether it wants to persist with older players or start honing youngsters capable of delivering the goods in the next Olympics.
"The problem is the IHF has no long-term planning. Ideally, they should have adopted a policy of dropping players who are over the hill, without buckling in the face of public criticism," said Dutt, a brilliant half back in his playing days.
"They should use the intervening period between two Olympics to groom greenhorns who will gain in experience by the time of the next Olympic Games," he added.
Dutt said the ideal Indian team should comprise youngsters along with a few senior players.
"This is needed because a player who is not fit as a fiddle cannot shine on astroturf. Also, speed is the essence on such surfaces," said Dutt, who also served as manager of the Indian team in the Munich Olympics in 1972.
Suggesting that the maximum age limit for players in the team should be 25-26 years, except for "extraordinary talents", Dutt said it was tough for seniors to last full time because of the highly competitive nature of play on astroturf.
Criticising the IHF, he said, "They are the steering body for hockey in India. But at the moment their conduct has not been satisfactory."
Dutt also refused to buy the argument that the Premier Hockey League is a feather in the cap of the IHF.
"What great role have they played here? They have only played the role of a school headmaster."
He said the IHF should appoint a panel of experts at the national level who must tour all the states and watch various tournaments before reporting back to the parent body.
"These technical inputs will enable the IHF form an idea about the talent pool in the country," he added.