Hockey Pro League is the perfect test ahead of the Olympics: Goalkeeper Sreejesh
New Delhi, January 19, 2021
Ace goalkeeper P R Sreejesh feels that the next leg of FIH Hockey Pro League matches will test the players' and teams' preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.
India is scheduled to play against Argentina in April, Great Britain, Spain and Germany in May. The team will also compete against New Zealand at home in May.
"We are hopeful the FIH Hockey Pro League matches are held as per schedule this year, that way we get good matches against strong teams ahead of Tokyo Olympics in July," Sreejesh told Hockey India in Bengaluru.
"These matches will be a perfect test for us as players as well as a team and I am sure the final team selection for the Olympics will depend on how well we do in these matches," the former captain said.
He recalled that, on this day last year, India made a sensational debut at the Pro League with a 5-2 win against the Netherlands.
Though in the next game, the Dutch bounced back to hold India 3-3 in regulation time, Sreejesh's heroics in the shootout ensured India began the coveted League with back-to-back wins. The final score was 3-1 in India's favour.
"It was one of the most memorable matches. I feel all of 2019, our true potential was not tested and we longed to play top teams like Netherlands, Australia and Belgium. The Pro League gave us that opportunity and we wanted to make it count," he said.
"India came up with impressive performances against the World Champions Belgium and Australia, too, winning a match each and losing a game by a close margin.
"It was a great learning experience and each of us worked on bringing out our individual best and execute our roles to perfection. The League was the perfect stepping stone for the Olympics," he said.
Talking about training in a bio-secure environment, the goalkeeper said, "In the last 12 months, the kind of challenges we have faced has made us mentally tough.
"While Hockey India and SAI have provided us with the best of training environment despite an ongoing pandemic, we as players have sought out various activities to keep our minds healthy.'
"Some of them have taken to playing cue sports to keep their mind sharp and fresh. SAI has put a table for us and we get to use this on our off days which helps us unwind.
"Our mantra now is to make the most of the facilities we have and be ready for competition whenever the situation permits us to travel," he added.