2 May 2016, New Delhi: For almost a decade, PR Sreejesh has been the face of the Indian hockey team and has established himself as not just the No. 1 goalkeeper in the country but also the most reliable one. On the eve of the selection trials for Champions Trophy and the Six Nations Tournament, Sreejesh emphasized on getting a good start in Rio where they begin their Olympic campaign against Ireland. “Our focus will be to take one match at a time. The key is to win as many matches in the pool stage so we find ourselves in a good position amongst the top four teams to play in the quarterfinal. Playing Ireland in the first match will be tough as we haven’t played against them since the 2014 Commonwealth Games. However, the way we are preparing, I am optimistic we will be in top shape for Rio,” says the 29-year-old goalkeeper who made his international debut with the senior men’s team in 2006 at the South Asian Games in Colombo.
Speaking about the team’s preparations, Sreejesh said that the team is focused on fine tuning their game in the camp, held at SAI Centre in Bengaluru. “Earlier, we would make visible mistakes but now that has been rectified and we have been paying a lot of attention to details, how to create situations, making set pieces and also trying out new tactics that we will try in the following tournaments,” he says further adding that the team has been sweating it out in the sweltering conditions in Bengaluru where the temperature has touched 39.5 degrees in the past week, a record high since 1931. “We train twice everyday and the goalkeepers clock three sessions under the tutelage of Dave who is an Olympian from South Africa. We go in early before the morning session along with Penalty Corner specialists and train with them. We have psychology sessions thrice a week at noon and regular training in the evening. We are giving it our all,” he said.
Being part of the bitter loss during the London Olympics where the team finished 12th, Sreejesh said, “We know what it means to do well in the Olympics. Winning a medal is a dream. We tell the juniors what it’s like being in the Olympics and we can’t let ourselves get distracted by the presence of elite athletes or being overwhelmed by meeting a sporting icon in the dining room. It is about our performance and that should be our focus.”