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I Am Trying To Create My Own History, Says PR Sreejesh Ahead of Asian Games

It's exactly nine days before India play their Asian Games opener against Hong Kong China. And yet captain PR Sreejesh is a symbol of calmness.

Saikat Ghosh |

Updated:August 15, 2018, 6:53 PM IST
It's exactly nine days before India play their Asian Games opener against Hong Kong China. And yet captain PR Sreejesh is a symbol of calmness. He breaks into a hearty laugh with an elderly woman who wants a selfie clicked with him. The Indian captain duly obliges before turning his attention towards the press at the sidelines of Hockey India's departure ceremony in the national capital.

One can't make out how things became difficult for this Kerala goalie as he picked up a knee injury and was dropped from the team. It was only after a long eight-and-a-half-month injury lay off that he was recalled in January this year.

But it was this period in wilderness that aroused his spiritual side and transformed him as a person.

"An injury teaches you a lot about yourself as a person. Because as a player, you see media, fans. So a lot of people are behind you. But when you are out of the team, that's when you actually realise who is standing besides you.

So that was my first realisation. Before that injury, I felt Hockey was everything for me and I couldn't imagine a life without hockey but now I knew there is a life after hockey. I have a family, I have a job. So now I look at hockey with a different perspective and enjoy it much more," says Sreejesh.

The 30-year-old, who is currently employed as a "sports organiser" with Education department of Kerala government, can't stop gushing about the importance of books and recalls how they helped him bounce back from the injury.

"During that period, I read a lot about my injury and I got to know these are the things you have to do. I had a rehab for almost four months. In those times, I had the company of books which gave me more experience and helped me realise that how a sportsperson bounces back from an injury."

With the hard times now over, the 30-year-old has turned his sight to the Asian Games. Being the captain and one of the senior players of the side, he has an added responsibility on his shoulders.

"Being a senior player, I always share my experiences with youngsters. See, Asian Games is not an easy platform. The teams look easy on paper. But on that particular day, with expectations around, it will be a pressure cooker situation," warns Sreejesh.

So will new coach Harendra Singh's presence make things easy?

"Actually he is an old coach in a new role. We knew each other for a long period. So there is an inbuilt bonding among us and that always helps," he replies.

India had a successful outing at the Champions Trophy where they lost the final to Australia. But the Asian Games are an altogether different challenge where India are the defending champions. A gold medal at Jakarta & Palembang would ensure an entry to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"The preparations are going really well. For the last three weeks we were in Bengaluru and we have done our work. We analysed our performance in Champions Trophy and learned a lot of things and we knew there are a couple of areas where we need to improve. And I think we have polished those areas and the team is ready for the Asian Games."

It has been a long journey for the India goalkeeper. He was part of the squad when India won the gold four years ago in Incheon and was the captain of the side which lost in the quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics in 2016. This is his second coming as a captain. Ask him about his future plans and the reply comes quick.

"In Kerala we never had a rich history of hockey. So I am trying to create my own history. So the next generation gets inspired by me and starts to play hockey," he signs off.

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| Edited by: Suyash Upadhyaya
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