Indian hockey team are aces of pace, feels PR Sreejesh
Analysing India's performance across the league stage, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh insists his team are capable of changing the tempo of a match instantly
It is said that if you don't like something, change it, and that the ones who bring about change go on to become great. This young Indian hockey team seem to be invariably treading the path to greatness at this World Cup. In all three of their matches, they have changed the tempo of a game to their benefit. And goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, says it's this quality that makes Manpreet Singh & Co special.
In the first match against South Africa, there was a bit of a lull after Mandeep Singh (10th minute) and Akashdeep Singh (12th) scored before three second half-goals within four minutes - Simranjeet Singh (43rd & 46th), Lalit Upadhyay (45th) - changed things. Next Up, against Belgium, the Indians again altered affairs in the second half - Harmanpreet Singh (39th) and Simranjeet Singh (47th) scored - to switch the fate of the match. And finally against Canada on Sunday, after Harmanpreet opened the scoring (12th) and Canada equalised through Floris van Son (39th), India suddenly quickened things and scored four goals in 11 minutes - Chinglensana Singh (46th), Upadhyay (47th & 57th), Amit Rohidas (51st).
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh during India's match against Canada in Bhubaneswar on Saturday
'Not about nervousness'
Some might consider it to be a nervous start by the Indians but Sreejesh countered that view. "It's not about nervousness. Different teams employ different systems. The Canadians did not want to play a fast game and so they slowed things down and we were not able to dictate the pace earlier on," the veteran Custodian told mid-day at the Kalinga Stadium here.
"In such situations, you have to step up and play the game over and above the prevalent rhythm. We were 1-0 up early but knew that we cannot hold that slender lead till the end of the match, so we had to change the pace. That's exactly what we did in the fourth quarter. Within the first three minutes [of the fourth quarter] we finished the game by scoring two quick goals," added Sreejesh, 30, who has made some timely saves in the first three matches but has gone unnoticed given the flair of the young Indian midfielders and attackers (average age 23 years).
The change of pace is something the team practices during their training drills. Match simulations are created by coach Harendra Singh, who, for example, will ask his boys to score a goal inside a certain amount of time. Even ball-snatches are timed - an average of six to 10 seconds is given to players to get the ball back from the opposition.
Can't be late
Proceeding into the knockouts however, it would be nice not to leave things for too late too often. Sreejesh agreed. "From the next match onwards we can must try and start the game like this [like the second half against Belgium and the fourth quarter against Canada]," he concluded.
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