On the field or off it, these are anxious times for the Indian women's hockey team.
It will be the first time that the players will be without coach MK Kaushik since the Dronacharya awardee was put in charge of the team for the Commonwealth Games.
Off the astro-turf, the sex scandal involving a support staff and the accusations of sexual misconduct against Kaushik have left the girls restless.
The team might have checked into their hotel in Busan, South Korea, but the players are keeping a close watch on the events as they unfold back home.
“The issue is being discussed all the time. Even at the dining table, this is a usual topic,” a senior player told HT from Busan. 'The girls want to know what is happening in India and for that we have been going through the newspapers that are available on the internet.”
Despite this, the team is focused on the work at hand - the Asian Champions Trophy, for which the team has flown to Busan.
“We have a tough week ahead and being professionals we know what is expected of us. Today (Friday), we had a practice session from 3:30-5:00 pm and everybody was serious,” said another player. She added in the same breath, “It's after a long gap that we will be playing without Kaushik sir and it might affect our performance.”
Hockey India has sent Vasu Thapliyal as a replacement, but the girls aren't happy. “We don't want Thapliyal, but it's strange to see the drastic change in his behaviour. He is extremely soft on the girls,” said a player.
On the allegations against Kaushik, the players said, “We are with Ranjita and we want justice for her. At the same time, the girls are feeling sorry for his family.”
Interestingly, Kaushik, who has been with the women's team for almost a decade, and under whom the team flourished, was forced to take charge of the team when it failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing that too after he was named as the men's team coach.
India to play Japan on July 27
India will begin their Asian Champions Trophy campaign against Japan on July 27. Other teams are hosts South Korea and China.