'Experienced PR Sreejesh will thrive on added pressure'
Former India goalkeepers AB Subbaiah and Adrian D'souza back veteran custodian to excel in Bhubaneswar
One of the loneliest players on a hockey field is the goalkeeper — body strapped up in thick padding and head enclosed in a helmet throughout. India custodian Sreejesh, 30, is used to this loneliness and has thrived on it, having manned the senior national post for over a decade. However, the World Cup in Odisha (November 28 to December 16) could be his toughest challenge till date. Former India goalkeepers AB Subbaiah and Adrian D'Souza explain why.
"Across the last two years, we had quite a bit of experience in our Indian team, but this time that's not the case. Without V Raghunath, Rupinder [Pal Singh] and Sardar [Singh], the youngsters will be marshalled by skipper Manpreet Singh in the midfield and Sreejesh from the back. Being the goalkeeper and facing up to the world's best teams, Sreejesh already has hands full, so it's good that he has been relieved off the captaincy as that would have been added pressure," Subbaiah, who is also a Hockey India selector, told mid-day from Bangalore yesterday. Sreejesh had led Team India to a bronze medal finish at the Asian Games in Indonesia this year, after which the captaincy was handed to Manpreet for the World Cup.
Air-India goalkeeper Adrian however, felt that, being surrounded by young players could be a blessing in disguise for Sreejesh. "Recently, at the Surjit Singh tourney, we [AI] had a very young and inexperienced team. I didn't even know my defenders. But we had a great outing and reached the semis, losing to a tough Railways team. We did well because our youngsters played with zero pressure and excelled with their pace and fitness. The same could happen with this Indian team," felt Adrian, who knows what it takes to win a gold medal on home soil, having been a part of India's 2007 Asia Cup-winning campaign in Chennai.
Subbaiah, part of India's 1998 Asian Games-winning outfit in Bangkok, warned Sreejesh to be a bit cautious though. "Sreejesh is known to be an aggressive goalkeeper but he may have to be cautious this time. For example, if there is an acrobatic save to be made, he might have to hold back knowing that he can't go all out as this team needs him throughout the tourney," said Subbaiah.
AB Subbaiah and Adrian D'Souza
Adrian agreed but with a rider. "Cautious, yes, but I'm confident, that Sreejesh will excel under the bar. And it will be a case of the young players depending on him rather than he depending on them," said Adrian.
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