Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Endless possibilities with Dharmaraj..

THE coach with a Midas touch.
   K. Dharmaraj's brave-heart attitude has seen his charges win the Sultan of Johor Cup, the Junior Asia Cup and finally the national juniors graduated to finish fourth in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi last December.
   And when he was promoted to the position of senior coach after Paul Revington gave up, he found himself plagued with injury problems and a host of other problems from outside which made his task of selecting a squad for the Azlan Shah Cup almost a nightmare.
   Some quarters had questioned his choice of naming seven uncapped players from the Junior World Cup side for the  Azlan Shah Cup, as they claimed it might just flush the millions spent to organise the tournament down the drain.
   But in reality, Dharmaraj never had a choice, as  regular goalkeepers S. Kumar and Roslan Jamaluddin are injured.
   So he had to name  Junior World Cup goalkeepers Hafizuddin Othman and Faiz Hazrul.
   Also on the injury list are regular defenders Baljit Singh and Razie Rahim, who is also Malaysia's best penalty corner flicker, and with another handful of experienced players showing fatigue and aging legs, Dharmaraj brought in another five uncapped players who helped Malaysia finish fourth in New Delhi.
   The five who deserve a standing ovation are Azri Hassan, Meor Azuan Hasan, Rashid Baharom, Shahril Saabah, Shazril Irwan.
   "I had no choice but to take a gamble and field a big number of youth in my first assignment with the senior side, and the boys showed they have guts, and together with the regulars, they only lost to Australia.
"Now I have a bigger pool to choose from for the Champions Challenge, World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games,"  said Dharmaraj.
   Australia are Malaysia's opening match opponents in the World Cup.
   "Playing them twice in Ipoh was a chance of a lifetime as we prepare for the World Cup, where (No 13) Malaysia must strive to finish in the top-10 bracket to improve our world ranking."
    The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) had set a quarter-final target for the Junior World Cup last year, yet the team made the semis and finished fourth. For the Azlan Shah Cup, the MHC target was bronze but the team won silver.
    And nobody would be surprised if Malaysia finish No 10 in the World Cup as the major difference between Dharmaraj and his predecessors is the word 'attack' as compared to 'defend'.
    In the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup, this scribe had interviewed German coach Bernhard Peters and asked him how did he change the fortunes of his team from finishing fifth in the 2000 Olympics, to world champions two years later   and the answer was 'attack'.
    Peters had then said: "I have the same players who played in the Sydney Olympics. The previous coach told them to defend and they finished fifth, and when I told them to play attacking hockey, they won the World Cup."
     This is what Dharmaraj is striving to do.