Multitasking, yet keeping it simple

Confident that superpowers of hockey have noticed India’s arrival, captain Sreejesh harps on importance of sharing responsibility

Published: 15th March 2017 03:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th March 2017 03:50 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: For a guy who likes his fair share of jokes, PR Sreejesh has an intense game face. If looks could kill, his has the capacity to start a small war. But off the field, he comes across as one with all the laughter. Express caught up with him to talk about the tribulations of being a top-class goalkeeper and being a future coach among other things. Excerpts...

PR Sreejesh

A bronze (World League final), a silver (Champions Trophy) and a gold (Asian Champions Trophy). December 2015 to 2016 was pretty unique in Indian hockey’s modern history…
It was a great year for Indian hockey. Apart from the Olympics, we won medals in every competition we competed in. The other big thing is teams have started recognising India as a threat. That’s the impression we’ve made in the last 12-18 months.

You were there again... helping the juniors to World Cup gold.
I was a mentor for the team. It was a new experience because the routine was very different. I just used to share my experiences with the goalkeepers, helping them warm up and focus. They never had an experience like that, playing in front of packed houses in the knockout stages of a big competition.

Does that interest you? A full-time coach once you are done playing...
Coaching is a passion for me. I can see myself doing that. I’m not all that keen to coach a senior team but I would love to coach juniors, the ones coming up. For them, there is more of a necessity to learn the basics. For the youngsters, you need to look after everything. For me personally, that’s more challenging.

It’s a challenge waking up everyday, taping a finger here, a toe there (at the World League Final in Raipur, he had taken three painkillers before the third-place playoff) and hoping you don’t suffer more injuries. It’s bound to take a toll on the body...

If you compare yourself to someone, then there will be limitations to your improvement. But if you fight with yourself, then everyday is a  challenge. For example, if I concede 10 goals in training, I’ll automatically think ‘shit I conceded 10 goals today’. Tomorrow I will want to reduce that to nine or below. Every practice session and match, I go out after a simple motivational message: ‘I’m not going to concede a single goal’. There’s also the fact that there are young goalkeepers watching me, trying to learn. So I’ve to act as a role model. Given my position, there are 10 others depending on you, there’s another of layer of responsibility. That gives me energy to pump myself up. It’s why I play the game.  

Speaking about your game, something changed recently. You were appointed captain...
Nothing has changed with respect to my game because during the match I always take initiative when I want to communicate or control my defensive line. Outside the game, there has been more initiative to gel players and promote a bond between us. I feel a captain’s off the field role is more important than on the field, especially in a proactive sport like ours.

There is a big 18 months coming up, culminating with the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar...
It’s a great challenge. Also the World League Final later this year. All players have to take responsibility. Even the youngsters (11 of the 18 junior World Cup winners are in the senior camp) coming into the team... we cannot tell them that ‘we are not expecting anything from you as you are youngsters’. From the first day itself it’s their duty to get wedded to the structure, improve and develop their mentality. They will obviously get a few tournaments to prepare. Everybody in the team has a responsibility to perform well and a duty to take our ranking from sixth to fifth, fourth, third and so on.                         

swaroop@newindianexpress.com

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