By Rohit Mundayur
New Delhi, Nov 15 : Indian goalie P.R. Sreejesh said that having sealed qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the men’s team now faces a tough road to the big event. India sealed their qualification for the Games with a 11-3 win over Russia in a two-legged qualifier that was held at the Kalinga stadium on November 1 and 2. However, the match was much more difficult than the scoreline suggests.
Sreejesh admitted that Russia, who were the lowest ranked team in the qualifiers, surprised them, especially in the first leg. “They are ranked 22nd and we are fifth so people were more excited about how India is going to thrash Russia. But they surprised us in the first match definitely with the good, hard hockey that they played. That was a wake-up call for all of us,” Sreejesh told IANS on the sidelines of the launch of Musashi performance nutrition brand in the national capital.
He however said that the qualifiers was the kind of high-pressure situation that the team would need to get used to going into the Olympics. “In the Olympics we are facing the toughest opponents in the world so that shows that you do have the chance to beat any team at any given day,” he said.
“It’s not going to be easy. You are preparing for the biggest event in the world. We will play the Pro League and I believe we will play a couple of test series in the venue. It’s going to be a long, tough journey to the Olympics,” he said.
Sreejesh said that preparing for the Olympics is as much a mental exercise as it is physically and tactically. Coach Graham Reid had earlier spoken about the mental side of playing in the Olympics and said that access to sports psychologists would be helpful. Sreejesh also opines that players can talk to a psychologists about matters that they might be ucomfortable expressing to their coaches or their team mates.
“Psychology is not a place where you get results overnight. I think if you really want to get a psychologist on board you need to do it now onwards,” said Sreejesh.
“It is upto the individual how we cope with the pressure. I have experience of so many years, I don’t need to get advice from a person (about my game) but sometimes if I am feeling like I need to share something with someone and you are not comfortable about talking about it to the coach or other players, then you keep it within yourself. These are areas where psychologists can help you,” he said.
He said that it is also important for senior players like him to share their experiences of playing in the Olympics with those who are new to the event.
“Being a senior it is important to share your experience with the younger players,” he said. “I know what was happening to me during the 2012 London Olympics. I was in a fantasy world. You look this side, Usain Bolt is walking, Serena Williams is sitting next to you and having food. So that is really a fantasy world for a youngster.
“When you are going for an Olympics you have to be mentally prepared to take these kind of things and make sure that your focus is on your game rather than what is happening around you. So it is important for us to share our experience and make sure that they are on their toes before the game starts.”
(Rohit Mundayur can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)