FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup: PR Sreejesh sets for his fourth appearance

Playing his third World Cup at home, the ace Indian keeper wants to make it special

NEW DELHI | Updated: 12 January, 2023 12:20 am IST
PR Sreejesh will be featuring in his fourth World Cup

Seasoned hockey star PR Sreejesh is all set to play in his fourth World Cup. But the ace Indian goalkeeper acknowledges that the results matter more than the number of times a player has appeared in the marquee event.

Odisha is hosting the showcase event for the second consecutive time. The tournament will start on January 13, and the final is slated for January 29.

Speaking to Hockey India, Sreejesh admitted that it was a huge honour to represent the country in the fourth World Cup, he also says it is a huge opportunity to end India’s 48-year-long wait.

India’s only triumph in the Hockey World Cup came in 1975, when the illustrious Ajit Pal Singh-led team beat arch-rivals Pakistan in the final played in Kuala Lumpur.

“It is a great honour for me to play in 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,” Sreejesh, who was instrumental in winning a bronze medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, said.

While his performance has put Sreejesh in the pantheon of hockey greats, he was humble enough to admit that it is results that 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. That is what matters the most to me. This time too, it’s important for me to give my 100 per cent and get the desired result from the tournament,” the 34-year-old veteran added.

Getting nostalgic about his first outing at the World Cup in New Delhi in 2010, Sreejesh said, “My first match in the World Cup was against Pakistan. I still remember that, during the team meeting, our coach said that Pakistan would 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,” Sreejesh recalls.

“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,” he said.

“Every World Cup is special for a player, but I distinctly remember the 2014 World Cup in The Hague. Unfortunately, we finished 9th, but we fought well in that tournament,” Sreejesh said.

“Personally, for me, I thought that was a great performance. In 2018, we couldn’t go into the semis. Now, we have one more opportunity to change our fortunes at this mega event. Hopefully, we can improve on our previous performance and finish on top,” he said.

India will take on Spain in their first pool D match on January 13 at 7 pm.

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