Jaap Stockmann: "India's Sreejesh is among the top 5 hockey custodians in the world"
Bhubaneswar, Jan 22 (IANS)
Recently crowned Goalkeeper of the Year by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), Holland's Jaap Stockmann believes his Indian counterpart P.R. Sreejesh is among the top five custodians in the world.
While 30-year-old Stockmann got the prestigious award on 15th January, Sreejesh missed out despite being nominated.
"Sreejesh has improved immensely in the last two years. He is a world class goalkeeper and is definitely among the top 5 in the world. He really deserved the nomination," Stockmann, who was part of the silver medal winning Netherlands squad at the 2012 London Olympics, told IANS in an interview.
The tall Dutchman is also impressed with the goalkeeping standards in India and is particularly captivated by the young Harjot Singh, who is a regular in the junior Indian team.
"Harjot is another young keeper who is doing very well and I see him rising in the coming years. Plus Hockey India League (HIL) provides a platform to all players, including goalkeepers, to showcase their talent," said Stockmann, who was the Player of the Tournament in HIL's 2014 edition.
The Jaypee Punjab Warriors goalkeeper lauded the standard of the game in HIL, saying it is quite high.
"The competition is really tough in HIL with top quality players and goalkeepers. I am expecting even higher standards of goalkeeping in this year's HIL," added the Dutch player, who was part of the silver medal winning squad at the 2014 World Cup in The Hague.
"Last year would have definitely been the best years of my career if we would have won the World Cup, playing at home. However, since we lost the final (1-6 to Australia), it was a good year in my individual capacity and I am quite happy with my performances."
Though World No.2 Netherlands overall had a good 2014, also having won the World Hockey League Final in New Delhi in January, they ended the year on a sour note when they finished fifth in the Champions Trophy here last month. En route they also lost 2-3 to World No.9 India.
"Overall the level of competition keeps increasing. India has improved a lot over of the last two years - the way they played in the Commonwealth Games to win the silver and then the Asian Games victory. The international level is such that if you don't give 100 percent each time you go out, you are going to lose," said Stockmann.
"To be honest, we deserved to lose against India as we did not play well. The Indian team played really well. Tactically their game has improved; they have a game plan from the start which I did not see too much earlier. It is a great improvement."