How Indian hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh did a Roger Federer to battle injury lay off
PR Sreejesh remembered reading a line from Roger Federer’s quotes, “I was No. 1. But now I want to enjoy the game.” Sreejesh went on to add that “when Federer started enjoying the game, he was playing much better than before”.
Sreejesh, the celebrated Indian hockey team’s goalkeeper, said this referring to how the recent injury has changed his perception towards life and his long-time passion, hockey. Not only he has become patient, he has started taking things as they come. He has started enjoying the game which he believes will help him “stay calm” and “perform freely”.
“I am not insecure anymore. Having been bed-ridden for several months, when I could just do nothing, not even move or walk, I learnt to be patient. Now things don’t bother me much,” Sreejesh told a selected group of media on the sidelines of an event where Government of Odisha announced its association Indian hockey.
Back in the fold after eight months of injury lay-off, Sreejesh felt the period was a blessing in disguise as he was able to spend time with family and could see life as a “normal human being.”
“Hockey was always an important part of me. But I could now see things beyond that. During the rehabilitation period at home, I used to go to the office, do my job, come back home spend time with family, go to schools inspiring and talking to kids. I looked at life in different ways and not only concentrate on hockey. Also after an injury, people start treating you as a normal human being,” said the 29-year-old who was laid down with ACL, MCL and meniscus injuries last year and only made his return to the national side for India’s New Zealand tour (Four Nation’s Invitational hockey) in January.
“There’s more negativity than positivity around. So it’s really hard to avoid them and keep away the negative thoughts and hope for better. But thank God, I was with family during my rehab and could make a quick recovery.”
He also admitted to have evolved as a reader during the recovery phase, as he completed reading the biographies of Abhinav Bindra and Andre Agassi, and is currently on his third on Mike Tyson. “Reading about them is an inspiration. If they can do it at the age of 35-36, I can too…I don’t have to run around, I just need to train my mind, stay calm and play my normal game. It’s all in your mind,” said the 31-year-old from Kochi.
With focus being on creating a strong bench strength, the last few tournaments saw couple of young names like Vikas Dahiya, Akash Chikte besides young goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak, making into the senior team in absence of Sreejesh.
Pathak is a member of the 2016 Junior World Cup-winning team and was also part of the India ‘A’ team at the Australian Hockey League in September 2017, while Dahiya and Chitke did well at the Hockey World League (HWL) Final in Bhubaneswar last December.
“When a player is injured, other players try to seal their place in the team. So a couple of juniors came in when I was injured and this is a good thing. Everyone will have the pressure to perform. Now a system is in place when any senior member is injured, we have a replacement. Now juniors are getting exposure in senior meets, they are training with the senior team learning to handle pressure.
“This results in healthy competition among players. It will also help the players to push each other hard to perform well. The important thing will be pressure, the players need to learn how to handle pressure at crucial moments,” he emphasized.
When the World Cup will be held in Bhubaneswar this November, Sreejesh will be playing his third after having been part of the Indian team at the 2010 World Cup and 2014 World Cup. He felt the team is much more balanced this time, with the right mixture of experienced and young players and could be able to deliver better results.
But before that, the team and Sreejesh, too, will have the Champions Trophy and the Commonwealth Games to deliver some results. The focus is a gold at the Goldcoast CWG.