‘Experience is the key factor’

S. SUBRAMANIUM

“Earlier, I had a healthy competition with Bharat Chetri and Adrian D’Souza. But now I am fighting with myself. I am trying to improve with every match. My aim is to do well in every match,” says P. R. Sreejesh in this interview with Y.B. Sarangi.

Notwithstanding the Indian hockey team’s inconsistency, P. R. Sreejesh always shines under the bar. On many an occasion the well-built goalkeeper from Kerala has stood out with his sterling showing.

Sreejesh, in a chat with Sportstar, analyses the side’s experience with new coach Terry Walsh and reveals the secret behind his consistency.

Question: Though the Indian team is not consistent with its performance, you have been performing consistently well.

Answer: A goalkeeper plays an individual role in a team game. Coordination is important among other players to perform well. Since the coach (Terry Walsh) is new, the team will take some time to settle down and play consistently. My case is different. I try to commit less number of mistakes. Individually, I try to maintain my good performance in every match. Sometimes, I concede goals due to no fault of mine. I get frustrated, but try to forget and look ahead. It is about the team. Everybody has to contribute to help the team win.

You do not have any competition from reserve ’keepers such as P. T. Rao (in his mid-thirties) and Harjot Singh (who recently played in the under-21 team).

Earlier, I had a healthy competition with Bharat Chetri and Adrian D’Souza. But now I am fighting with myself. I am trying to improve with every match. My aim is to do well in every match.

You started as a member of the junior side and now you are an integral part of the senior team...

"The team will take some time to settle down and play consistently under the new coach, Terry Walsh," says Sreejesh.-PTI

For a goalkeeper, experience is the key factor. You should know how to handle pressure. You have to make several on the spot decisions. I got good exposure during my junior days. I have spent time with several coaches, such as Edward Aloysius, Ravi Verma, Romeo James and now Dave Staniforth (from South Africa). Every coach has a different style. I have learnt a lot from Staniforth. He is young and familiar with the latest changes, he understands me better.

Who are the goalkeepers for the future?

Right now, Harjot and Sushant Tirkey (who was also part of the India under-21 squad in the Junior World Cup) are the talented youngsters who are performing well. Srinivas Rao from Hyderabad is also good. All of them need a lot of international exposure to grow and mature.

How different is the new coach, Terry Walsh, from others?

As a goalkeeper, I am the first person to understand the strategy. I have to communicate with the players and pass on the message even if I notice a small mistake from our team. Walsh knows the European, Australian and Indian styles well. He is not making too many changes. He is trying to teach us how to play in the midfield, wait and counterattack. Besides, he is telling us when and how to put pressure on the opposition.

What was the reason behind India’s sudden turnaround (drawing and then beating Olympic champion Germany after two poor performances) in the Hockey World League?

We had some new players and we were playing for the first time under Walsh. And others were world class teams. So, it took some time to get used to the new style. Once we had some confidence, we got good results. Our performance shows that if we play to our potential, we can beat any top team. Winning against a tough side is great feeling and it makes the players play more confidently.