Dharmaraj willing to take coaching job even if he has to start from scratch to lift Speedy Tigers out of the doldrums

KUALA LUMPUR: K. Dharmaraj is prepared to take on the mission of rebuilding the national men's hockey team if hired as the head coach.

The Melaka-born coach, among the four shortlisted candidates, said this would be the toughest challenge of his career, especially after the national team, known as the Speedy Tigers, failed to qualify for the Olympics.

The other coaches shortlisted for the position are Sarjit Singh, Australian Glenn Turner, and South African Brendon Carolan.

Dharmaraj, currently the technical director of the Indonesian team, previously coached the Speedy Tigers from 2014 to 2018.

The Malaysian Hockey Confederation will invite the four candidates for interviews before selecting a head coach.

Given his experience, Dharmaraj is considered the frontrunner to rebuild the national team for the next Olympic cycle.

Furthermore, Dharmaraj is a disciplinarian and his no-nonsense approach will definitely benefit in the rebuilding of the national team.

"If hired, I will start from scratch. It will take years to rebuild the national team," said the 55-year-old.

"The current crop of youth players are not as talented as when I was the national junior coach in 2012, which had some players with senior team experience.

"That was one of the reasons behind Malaysia's success in winning the 2012 Junior Asia Cup. The team also finished fourth at the 2013 Junior World Cup."

Among the top players in Dharmaraj's 2012 junior squad were the Saari brothers — Faizal and Fitri.

"Faizal was a gifted player. He had the skill and speed to score goals," he said.

Dharmaraj has already drawn up plans, which he will present to MHC during the interview.

"I will call up those in their early 20s for training. They will have to work hard and improve their game.

"We need to do this because Malaysia and other Asian countries, namely South Korea, Pakistan, Japan, and China, are nowhere near the quality of world No. 3 India.

"It will take time for the Speedy Tigers to catch up with India, who have been dominating Asian hockey.

On whether leaving the Indonesian team would be tough if he gets the job, Dharmaraj said: "When some Indonesian players heard I was shortlisted for the Malaysian job, they were sad.

"It is understandably as I have been coaching them for the last few years.

"The Indonesian players do not want me to leave. Of course, it is not always easy to make decisions in life," he added.

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