P.R.Sreejesh: it will be tough

Ace goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh feels that despite being the host, India will have its task cut out in the World Hockey League which will be held in Raipur later this month.

Indian hockey team goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh during the Indian men’s hockey team training at the National Camp at the SAI South Centre in Bengaluru.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Indian hockey team has shown signs of improvement recently and has climbed the world ranking. But ace goalkeeper and mainstay of the team, P.R. Sreejesh feels that despite being the host, India will have its task cut out in the World Hockey League which will be held in Raipur later this month.

“As host we will be under pressure to perform but it is a tough tournament as the top eight nations are competing in Raipur. To be frank, there isn’t much difference between teams these days, it is the day’s form which will make the difference and it will negate whatever advantage we have as host.

"It is also an interesting tournament as the format allows teams some leeway and it will help teams like India who are traditionally slow starters. But we have to pull up our socks after the quarterfinals, as there will be no room for errors,” said Sreejesh.

Sreejesh, the hero of India’s gold medal at the Asian Games, felt the team looked settled under Roelant Oltmans and the frequent changes in coaches haven’t really affected the rhythm of the team.

“Initially we were apprehensive when Nobbs left, but when Oltmans took over we were happy. Oltsman was familiar with players and we knew his style of functioning. The team is settled now and the confidence levels are pretty high. We had a good run last year. We won the Asian Games gold and did well in overseas tours this year. Without anybody realizing it, we have improved our ranking. We are now placed sixth in the world and it is not a small achievement. It is result of our hard work and consistency,” said Sreejesh.

The gangling goalkeeper also felt that the new format under which the game is played in four quarters would benefit the Indian team better, who in past were accused of lowering the guard towards the end of the match.

“Earlier we were accused of losing focus in the dying minutes and letting in soft goals. But it was not deliberate and we had worked very hard to reduce errors. Honestly we have improved a lot on that front. But I feel the new format will benefit us more as it would help our players to concentrate hard from the start,” he said.

Sreejesh made no bones of the fact that the advent of Hockey League has done a world of good for the game in India.

“Hockey league is the best thing to have happened to Indian hockey. Yes financially it was rewarding for many of us but the important thing was that our standard improved. It also helped in reducing the awe factor of the foreign players. Earlier, we weren’t confident playing against foreign players in tournaments. But after hockey league, we got to know them better personally, their temperament, the way they train etc. We realized they aren’t super humans. Definitely the Hockey league has made us more confident,’’ said the goalkeeper.