Asian Games 2018: PR Sreejesh wants team India to establish their legacy in hockey folklore
Indian hockey captain PR Sreejesh backed his team to win the Asian Games gold and establish their legacy in the Indian sport’s folklore.
No other Indian team has won back-to-back gold at the Asian Games. But if the current bunch of players, who won the Continental showpiece last year can replicate their performance, it may well become the first team from the country to achieve that feat.
Terming his team as the “favourites” to clinch the top honours once again in Jakarta Sreejesh said, “We want to create a legacy of winning gold in two consecutive Asian Games and this team can defend the title this time. A gold in Jakarta will also build up a nice momentum for a podium finish in the World Cup India is hosting later this year.”
A gold at the Asian Games will also ensure a direct qualification into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which Sreejesh asserted was their main aim at the competition this year.
“For us, the target is to win a gold and qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, nothing less than that. Then we will get two years to prepare for the Olympics. And going by the current form of the team, we can win gold in Jakarta. We are the favourites to win the gold,” he added.
“We have done well in the Champions Trophy and we could have won the tournament. The confidence level of the team is very high. I would say this (confidence) is a huge change in the last few years. Now, we don’t fear playing against any team in the world.”
India finished as runners-up in the elite Champions Trophy in the Netherlands which saw the team jump a place high to be positioned on fifth in the FIH World Rankings.
Bubbling with confidence after their recent re-emergence as a global powerhouse, the return of drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh has further strengthened the team and Sreejesh believed that the presence of all the top players not only make them a contender to defend the title but also give them a perfect balance.
“Yes, it is a compact and balanced team. Sardar Singh is there in the team from the Champions Trophy onwards and Rupinder has returned for the Asian Games. On an average, all the players have played more than 100 matches. Just two or three players have played around 20-30 matches,” said India’s first-choice hockey goalkeeper.
“It is a strong team going to the Asian Games and it augurs well for the World Cup (Bhubaneswar) later this year.”
Sreejesh though admitted that their record in taking penalty corners is very low and an improvement is needed in the conversion rate. He, however, reiterated that more than converting penalties it would be better if the players are able to score more goals by converting the chances from regular play.
“We are trying to improve the rate of penalty corner conversion. But more than that our main concern is to score more goals. We would want to score goals first and maintained the lead and keep a comfort level.
“So, it is about scoring more goals, that is our main concern and we are working on that,” he said.
Coach Harinder Singh who took charge of the team a few months back also agreed that the penalty conversion rate was below the standard and hoped that the presence of penalty-corner specialist Rupinder will improve their quality is this aspect of the game.
“The rate of penalty corner conversion was poor in the Commonwealth Games and Champions Trophy but we have done well in the recent matches against New Zealand and South Korea. We need improvement and we are working on that,” he said.
“I hope the return of Rupinder will also give us a better result in that crucial aspect of the game.”