Rourkela : All set to play his fourth World Cup for India, experienced goalkeeper PR Sreejesh emphasised that it’s the results that matter more than the number of times a player turns up for a marquee event like the World Cup.
While he admits it’s a huge honour to turn up for his fourth World Cup, Sreejesh knows very well that this is a great opportunity to change India’s fortunes at the ultimate tournament for hockey, in which India awaits to finish on the podium since 1975 triumph when the illustrious Ajit Pal Singh-led team won the tournament beating Pakistan in the Final.
“It is a great honour for me to play my fourth World Cup for our country and the special part is, this is my third World Cup on home soil. I don’t think any player has had this privilege of playing three World Cups at home,” expressed Sreejesh who was instrumental in India’s Bronze Medal feat at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
While this achievement in itself puts Sreejesh among the world’s greatest players, he was quick to add that results are what make one great. “Most of the time, I have always felt it’s not about how many times you have played a tournament but whether you have won it or not is what matters the most for me. This time too, it’s important for me to give my 100 per cent and get the desired result from the tournament,” he added.
Sreejesh also got nostalgic about his first outing at the World Cup when his former Coach asked him to pad up to guard India’s post against nemesis Pakistan. This was during the FIH Men’s World Cup in New Delhi back in 2010.
“My first match in the World Cup was against Pakistan. I still remember, during the team meeting, our coach said that Pakistan will come fully prepared for goalkeeper Adrian (D’Souza) so he decided to put me in the match against them. When he asked me to pad up, the feeling of getting a chance was simply incredible,” recalls Sreejesh feeling nostalgic.
“To play my first World Cup match in front of a packed home ground against Pakistan felt like a dream. I can still feel the atmosphere, how the stadium was, how people reacted and how we won that match. That was the best moment for me as a youngster.” added the ace who will be India’s cynosure in defence at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela.
He also recalled India’s outing in the following World Cup events. “Every World Cup is special for a player but I distinctly remember the 2014 World Cup in Hague. We finished 9th unfortunately but we fought really well in that tournament. Personally, for me, I thought that was a great performance.
In 2018, we couldn’t go into Semis. Now, we have one more opportunity to change our fortunes at this mega event. Hopefully we can improve our previous performance and finish on top,” he said.