Varun issue a challenge and distraction but team professional enough to focus: Fulton

Indian men’s hockey team focuses on Olympic preparations for the FIH Pro League while dealing with a Varun’s sexual misconduct accusation.

Published : Feb 09, 2024 17:06 IST , Bhubaneswar - 3 MINS READ

Indian hockey team head coach Craig Fulton.
Indian hockey team head coach Craig Fulton. | Photo Credit: VEDHAN M

Indian hockey team head coach Craig Fulton. | Photo Credit: VEDHAN M

The Indian men’s hockey team landed in the city hoping to get its Olympic preparations on track at the venue it is most comfortable in, but for the past two days, it has been trying to avoid the contentious issue of a player being accused of sexual misconduct, staying under the radar to focus on the task at hand instead.

On Friday, Captain Harmanpreet Singh preferred to not comment, only saying that he was “named in the list of 29 probables and the coach has said he will keep changing the team, so hopefully, he (Varun) will get a chance later and be with us.” Coach Craig Fulton was more forthcoming, admitting it had been a challenge but insisting the team was professional enough to stay focused.

“If you take it from outside in, of course, it’s a challenging situation. At the same time, you’ve got a level of professionalism, and you have to have plans in place. If you took it as an injury, what are the plans in place? There was always a plan for anyone who gets injured and if Varun is not here, we are going with the values we hold in the group. We have a situation, but we have plans to keep everyone focussed. It’s a distraction, and it’s not great, but we need to move forward,” Fulton insisted on the eve of the team’s opening game against Spain.

These will be India’s last matches at home before Paris, and the team aims to use them to prepare for the road ahead, including getting closer to the final Olympic squad. “These games are really important, but we are still five months away, and we want to get as much out of this block as we can. It is the home stretch, but it is also about us confirming our Olympic squad. We have 29 players here, 24 in the playing squad, and we will be trying to give everyone a chance across the two legs here.

READ | India hockey player and Arjuna award winner Varun Kumar accused of rape, booked under POCSO act

“Then we have to keep developing our game, our playing style, individual players and the combinations within that. Valencia and South Africa gave us the ability to do that. At Valencia, we didn’t have much of a training block beforehand because of the Nationals, but SA was definitely in the right direction. Performance is also a challenge, stringing performances together with consistency is a priority,” he added.

About the team itself, Fulton admitted finishing was an area the team was looking to get better. “We lacked conversion in the final 3rd, that is something we are looking to work on. We have a nice attacking style, converting those chances into goalscoring opportunities is going to be everyone’s focus point, but the main thing is to be able to defend and then counter-attack,” he stressed.

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