Sreejesh: Would like to finish in the top-six at Rio

Eleven months after his heroics in the Asian Games hockey final against Pakistan at Incheon, P. R. Sreejesh starred in another memorable triumph for India, in the bronze-medal match at Raipur on Sunday. His saves against the Netherlands helped India win its first medal in a major world event for over three decades.

P. R. Sreejesh was instrumental in India's bronze medal win in HWL.   -  K. Ragesh

Eleven months after his heroics in the Asian Games hockey final against Pakistan at Incheon, P. R. Sreejesh starred in another memorable triumph for India, in the bronze-medal match at Raipur on Sunday. His saves against the Netherlands helped India win its first medal in a major world event for over three decades.

“This performance of mine would always remain close to my heart, but what really matters is that my team was able to win,” says Sreejesh. “I relish the challenge of keeping the goal in a shoot-out.”

He, however, admits that it didn’t feel nice going into the tie-breaker against the Dutchmen at Raipur. “Remember the score was 5-5 at the end of the normal period and no goalkeeper likes to concede as many goals,” he says. “We were all very happy to win such an exciting match; we did well to comeback after being 0-2 down.”

Sreejesh says the win has come at a good time for India as it prepares for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. “This is a big morale booster, as we beat the Netherlands, the World No. 2,” he says. “Our target is to finish inside the top six in Rio; a medal would be a bonus.”

‘This is the most promising side I have been a part of’

He adds India still has some distance to go before becoming one of the top three nations in world hockey. “But I have great hopes about this time, which is the youngest and the most promising side that I have been part of,” he says. “The Hockey India League, to be held in January-February, would make our players even better prepared for Rio.”

He feels the Indian team improved greatly under Roelant Oltmans. “The best thing about him is that he doesn’t make us play in the European style,” he says. “He knows that Indian players have a lot of individual flair. He adopts the best aspects of European hockey in his training, even as allowing us to retain our own styles.”