Sreejesh adopts Rohit & Co’s mantra: ‘Don’t celebrate and…’ | Paris Olympics 2024 News

NEW DELHI: PR Sreejesh, the seasoned goalkeeper of the Indian hockey team, is participating in his fourth and likely final Olympics. He has gained a crucial insight from the victorious T20 World Cup cricket team: ‘never give up and celebrate’ early. This lesson will remain etched in his mind as he prepares for the Paris Olympics.
In a remarkable turnaround, the Indian cricket team emerged triumphant in the T20 World Cup final, securing a narrow seven-run win against South Africa despite being on the brink of defeat.This victory ended India’s 11-year drought in ICC tournaments.
The Champions Trophy in 2013, under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was the last significant ICC title claimed by India.
“I did watch the final. The biggest learning from this World Cup is that don’t celebrate before the last ball. South Africa was almost winning till the 15th over but the Indian team did not give up hope and snatched the win from the jaws of defeat,” Sreejesh, who has 328 India caps, told PTI Bhasha. “That’s what not only us (hockey team) but every Olympic-bound athlete can learn from our cricket team is that never give up, just wait and fight till the last moment, you will achieve it. I will remember this in the Olympics,” he said.
Regarded as the ‘The Wall of Indian hockey’, Sreejesh still remembers that one advice he got from “The Wall of Indian cricket’, Rahul Dravid.
“I met Dravid bhai long back. He told us about the importance of patience and waiting for your moment. That’s what I did. I did not become one of the best goalkeepers in the world overnight. I waited for my opportunities. I have also learnt to remain humble from him,” he said.
Sreejesh initially took up the sport to secure grace marks in his board examinations. However, his journey in hockey surpassed his initial expectations as he not only represented India in four Olympic Games but also played a crucial role in the team’s historic bronze medal victory at the Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s a great honour, a proud moment but comes with a lot of responsibilities. You need to guide the youngsters, you need to keep the team together and help to achieve the common goal of winning a medal at the Olympics,” said the former FIH player of the year.
“It’s a dream journey. I just started playing this game for grace marks in board exams. I never thought that I would play hockey, wear an Indian jersey and participate in the Olympics. I just knew the legendary Dhanraj Pillay, who played 4 Olympics, 4 World Cups, Champions Trophy, Asian Games and today I am the first goalkeeper going to play my fourth Olympics. It’s hard to believe.”
Sreejesh played a crucial role in securing the bronze medal for India at the Tokyo Olympics. His outstanding performance in the match against Germany was instrumental in India’s victory.
“Expectations come with achievements and we don’t have to take it negatively. I believe that it will give us the boost to perform even better in Paris. I want to tell the youngsters in the team that expectations and criticism will be there but on the field you are the boss. Stick to your basics, execute your plans and enjoy the game,” he said.
As a seasoned member of the team, he takes on the role of a mentor for the younger players. He enjoys presenting them with challenges designed to help them reach their full potential and bring out their best performance.
“Mentoring is very important as you are the one who played this game, failed, succeeded and when you tell these things to the kids, they understand. I always challenge forwards, make fun of them if they don’t score. They accept this and try to do better,” he said.
“The Olympics are too much pressure. It’s like a pressure cooker. You are closely followed by the media, there will be social media, coaches, people give you many ideas and these things distract you. I just tell them to play as a team without hearing these noises.”
India find itself in a challenging Pool B at the Olympics, competing against formidable opponents such as Argentina, Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, and Ireland.
“Argentina have good 3D skills, the Australians are very strong and Belgium have very experienced forward line but I feel that on that particular day, it’s all about using your experience and knowledge against them,” he said.
“For me visualization is the key. You play hockey for 365 days and in the Olympics we are also going to play the same but the ground, the audience and the atmosphere put you under pressure. Those who can play their best hockey under that pressure can win.”


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