BHUBANESWAR: Parattu Raveendran Sreejesh is not only one of India’s all-time best hockey goalkeepers. The prankster is a likeable character as well. Besides helping the country win laurels, he has made hockey spectator-friendly with his antics. When Express caught up with him, he came up with a special one.
Since the hotel lobby was crowded, coordinator of the interview suggested the bar, which was almost empty in the early afternoon. Sreejesh surprised by ordering two beers. When the perplexed bartender came to recheck the order, the star goalkeeper revealed it was a joke! Not a bad time for one, as he turns 27 on Friday. Excerpts...
What prompted you to become a hockey goalkeeper?
In childhood, I tried sprint, long jump and volleyball. When I joined GV Raja Sports School in Thiruvananthapuram, coach suggested hockey. Not many boys were playing the game and fewer were willing to be a goalkeeper. But it fascinated me. I chose goalkeeping because I don’t have to run much. I was a fat, short and lazy boy. The role suited me.
What does it take to be a good goalkeeper?
Most important is experience, which comes slowly. A good goalkeeper must also have quick reflexes and the ability to take quick decisions. He should be cool-headed.
Who do you regard as the all-time best goalkeeper of India and where you will place yourself among the top 10 in the country?
I started as the understudy of Adrian D’Souza and Bharat Chhetri. The former is my role model and so is Shankar Laxman. Regarding my position, people will say where I stand.
Which is the most memorable moment of your career?
There are many. The first was when I received the India jersey. Then the Asian Games final, where I effected two saves in the shootout against Pakistan to help India win gold.
What should India do to become No 1?
We have to be mentally stronger and consistent. We have to work on weak areas such as conceding late goals. We have to do small things right.
Should Dhyan Chand be conferred with Bharat Ratna?
Bharat Ratna for Dhyan Chand has been a long-standing demand of the hockey fraternity. It is up to the government to decide whether he deserves it or not. But I personally feel Dhyan Chand is bigger than Bharat Ratna.
What do you do when not playing hockey?
I visit the gym to work on fitness. Whenever possible, I spend time with my daughter Anushree, who is 10 months old. I also like visiting places, especially hill resorts.
What is your favourite food?
I like home food and whatever my mom cooks. I love rice and sambar. But I am a pure non-vegetarian.
How sensitive you are about politics and which party you support?
I have no interest in politics. But I support the party or leader, who works for the benefit of the people of the country.
Your comments on the role of print and electronic media?
Nowadays people don’t have time to read newspapers. They are preferring TV and internet. But pen is always mightier than word. Moreover, newspaper has permanent value and educates people.