The Hindu (Mumbai)

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

- Uthra Ganesan

The Indian men’s hockey team landed in the city hoping to get its Olympic preparatio­ns on track in the FIH Pro League 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

Fulton said that he will try and give everyone chances in the FIH Pro League.

values we hold in the group. We have a situation but we have plans to keep everyone focused. 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.

“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 third, 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 counteratt­ack,” he stressed.


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