If Indian hockey is on a path of revival, then surely a fair amount of credit goes to India’s number one custodian and vice-captain PR Sreejesh who has stood tall and strong consistently between the posts for the Indian side in the last decade or so.
Since making his junior team debut in 2004 at Perth, Sreejesh has only impressed everyone by his amazing reactions and agility at the goal line to deny the opposition teams the pleasure of scoring a goal against a very compact Indian hockey side.
He went on to become the first men’s hockey player from Kerala to receive the Arjuna Award after he was recommended for the prestigious award by a 12-member selection committee in 2015.
Here are the 10 things which will help you to know him better:
1. Parattu Raveendran Sreejesh was born in an agricultural family background on 8th May 1988 in Kizhakkambalam village, in the Ernakulam district of Kerala. His parents, P. V. Raveendran and Usha are both farmers by trade.
2. In his early days, Sreejesh trained as a sprinter before moving on to long jump and volleyball as his first choice sports. At 12, he registered in the Raja Sports School in Thiruvanthanapuram, where he made his first move to be a hockey goalkeeper on the advice of his coaching staff, Jayakumar and Ramesh Kolappa.
3. He completed his graduation with a major in History from Sree Narayana College, Kollam, Kerela. He is married to Aneeshya, a former long jumper and an Ayurveda doctor.
4. The 27-year old custodian made his senior debut in 2006 at the South Asian Games in Colombo, 2 years after he was chosen to represent the Tri-color at the international stage at the junior level.
5. However, it was not until the 2008 Junior Asia Cup that brought the tall-rigid goalkeeper from Kerela into the limelight, Sreejesh made some outstanding saves to help the Indian national team to clinch the Gold medal by beating Korea in the finals.
Subsequently, Sreejesh was awarded his first ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’ award at the international stage. His call-up for the Indian side came as a surprise to him as he got a surprise call to replace Baljit Singh in the Indian team for the Europe tour in 2009 after the latter suffered a career-jeopardising eye injury during a training camp in Pune.
“I feel proud to hear that people call me 'Wall of India'. It gives more responsibility and always alerts me to stay on my toes.”
6. By the year 2011, Sreejesh had cemented his place in the starting XI of the Indian national set-up, following tough competition from the senior players like Bharat Chhetri and Adrian D’Souza. His consistency between the posts helped the Kerela-based custodian to be picked for the 2013 Asia Cup, where he was adjudged as the 'Goalkeeper of the Tournament' for the second time in his senior team career, following Indian team’s impressive 2nd place finish.
7. The main highlight of his career came in the year 2014 when the Indian team went to Incheon, Korea to participate in the Asian Games, which also had the reward of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics for the winning team.
Due to Sreejesh’s heroics in the penalty shoot-out, the Indian national team went on to beat their arch-rivals Pakistan in the final to clinch the Gold medal and became the first team to seal the spot for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“There are a lot to mention ... but the Asian Games gold in 2014 is a great golden moment in my life”
8. In the same year, India went on to finish 4th at the 2014 Champions Trophy after having lost the Bronze medal match to Australia by the narrowest of margins. However, Sreejesh was awarded the ‘Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament’ award for his blistering performance under the crossbar for his national team.
Later that year, the Indian team also went on to secure a Silver medal finish at the 2014 Commonwealth Games with Sreejesh being the last line of defence. For his amazing contribution throughout the calendar year, he was nominated for the ‘FIH Goalkeeper of the Year’ award, however, the Indian custodian lost to the Dutch number one Jaap Stockmann in the final round.
9. The 27-year old was injured badly and with half of his body wrapped in bandages, Sreejesh took the field at the 2015 Hockey World League semis played in Raipur, India. He produced his finest performance to date against the Dutch national side in an important Bronze medal clash, where the Indian side emerged victorious following a penalty shoot-out win and thus ended India’s 33-year medal drought at the FIH Tournaments.
10. PR Sreejesh was retained by the UP-based franchise Uttar Pradesh Wizards for the recently concluded 2016 CIL Hockey India League following an impressive run with the Wizards last year.
The Wizards paid a mammoth amount of US $60,000 to secure his services, thus making him the most expensive Indian goalkeeper at the Hockey India League.