Sreejesh, Deepika win Player of the Year awards

Both Sreejesh and Deepika bagged Rs. 25 lakh and a trophy each for their achievement.

P. R. Sreejesh is the goalkeeper and the vice-captain of the Indian national hockey team.   -  K. Ragesh

P.R. Sreejesh and Deepika walked away with the Player of the Year honours at the 2nd Hockey India Annual Awards ceremony for 2015 here on Saturday. Sreejesh had a memorable time under the bar last year, notably playing a starring role in India's shoot-out victory over Holland in the bronze-medal match at the Hockey World League Final.

"In a team event, it's very difficult to place a value on individual performances," he said afterwards. "It's only during a penalty shoot-out that a goal-keeper can shine. But we were 2-0 down against Holland and it's only because of Rupinderpal Singh and the rest of the team that the game even went to penalties. This award belongs to the whole team."

Sreejesh, a firm favourite with supporters as much for his enthusiasm as his heroics in goal, also picked up the Fan's Choice award. The 27-year-old even danced on stage, showing admirable grace and vigour, to thunderous applause from the gathering. The veteran Deepika was recognised for her work in defence as the Indian women's team qualified for the Olympic Games after a gap of 36 years. Both Sreejesh and Deepika were given a cash prize of Rs. 25 lakh.

'Hockey players don't make a lot'

"This is a big deal for us financially, because hockey players don't make a lot," Deepika said.

The Late Capt. Shankar Laxman was posthumously chosen for the Lifetime Achievement Award, which carried a purse of Rs.30 lakh and was accepted by his son, Manohar Singh Shekhawat. Capt. Laxman, a goal-keeper, was part of the Olympic medal-winning teams of 1956(Melbourne, gold), 1960 (Rome, silver), and 1964 (Tokyo, gold).

Harbinder Singh, who played alongside Laxman in Tokyo, recalled his efforts in the final against Pakistan. "We were leading 1-0 and in the dying minutes, Pakistan got a penalty corner. (Munir) Dar's first shot was stopped; he struck one rebound and then another, both really hard. But Laxman stood like a wall," he said.

Harjeet Singh and Preeti Dubey were declared the Upcoming Players of the Year (Under-21), taking home Rs.10 lakh. Women claimed three of the four awards for Best Goalkeeper (Savita), Defender (Kothajit Singh), Midfielder (Ritu Rani) and Forward (Rani Rampal).

Total prize money handed out was in excess of Rs.2 crore, including a sum of Rs.1 lakh each given to members of the women's team that qualified for Rio 2016, the Junior men's team that won the 8th Junior Asia Cup, and the Senior men's team that won a bronze medal at the HWL Final.

Other awards:

Invaluable Contribution: Baldev Singh;

Outstanding Achievement: Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy;

Milestone: Dharamvir Singh, Kothajit Singh, Birendra Lakra, Sushila Chanu (all 100 caps), Gurbaj Singh, and V. R. Raghunath (both 200 caps).

Individual: R.V. Raghuprasad (100 games as umpire), Devinder Walmiki, Nilam Xess, Md. Umar, Harjeet Singh, Gaganpreet Singh, and Preeti Dubey (goals on debut).