In an Indian hockey team where the average age of the players is in the early 20s, PR Sreejesh stands out as a strange person.
The 30-year-old is the oldest member of the World Hockey Cup 2018 team in India. the man among the boys, the experienced professional among the pioneers.
And it takes this role seriously, even under the extreme adversity. Last Sunday after India's second match against Belgium, Sreejesh had to return to his home in Kochi to watch his father, Raveendran, who was hospitalized for heart disease just one year after a heart attack.
Sreejesh flew on Monday, but returned to Bhubaneswar on Wednesday, much earlier on the Indian India's final game against Canada on Saturday.
The call of duty overshadowed everything else about the wall of India.
"I represent 140 people, I can not leave them down," Sreejesh told the DNA in a conversation here Monday.
"You can not compromise on your performance in the problem area outside of it. You can not let it affect your game because your coaches and teammates trust you to do a job." He is a top member of the Indian national hockey team, it is my duty to play in my potential at this World Cup, "he added.
As he did against Belgium last Sunday, rather than an "intuition" that there was something "unusual" back home.
Sreejesh calls his father or mother before his game. Before the Belgian match, none of them answered the phone.
His mind fills up, Sreejesh fills up and enters the field with a single goal: Reducing his defensive unit to guard the Indian acropolis from the fifteen hunts attempted by the aggressive red lions.
And moments when India held the world no. 3 Belgian 2-2, Sreejesh discovered the reason behind these missed calls. His father was admitted to the hospital, a news that his family did not want to know before the most critical league game in India.
"It was difficult for me as a human being and a son, seeing your dad suffer, going through a threat and being unable to do anything about it, much more because I'm very close to my dad," said Srezez .
"It had the same thing last year, and it happened again this time. That's what I was worried about."
And yet, Sreejesh returned to work after a few days, forced by his beloved father and his family to return to hockey.
Not that it needs more impetus. Although Manpreet Singh replaced him as governor of India after the disappointment of the Asian Games, Sreejesh still boasts of the capability of Indian hockey.
Use of experience
Bringing the national jersey for over a decade while being the face of the sport in the country for much of it, Sreejesh does not confuse enough to get rid of the captain.
Rather, he has embraced the role of mentor for young people in the field with his own instructions.
"Being a senior player, it is more important to share my experience with young people so they are ready to take on the challenge of playing in a tournament like the World Cup," he added.
This is his third World Cup, which he believes to be different not only because of the modified form but also the confidence in this set-up.
"In 2010, when we started, we were under a new coach, everything was new, it was happening in New Delhi and many things were going on at that time." This time, this is not the case, "Sreez said.
"The format is also different." Yes, we are fortunate that this time there are four teams, so it's a bit easier to start.
"But the confidence we have gained since the first race has helped us to keep up our pace until the last one." Each game, we have raised our levels a little bit, improved a bit, the last fight against Canada was the perfect example at any time during the race, if we can make a step higher, we can do wonders, "he added.
But the challenge now – as he is quick to point out – is to put the bar high up from the first minute itself comes the crisis time on Thursday.
"You can not afford accidental mistakes in the quarterfinals, this is a place where you have to play your skills throughout the race, we will do our best and we will be mentally and physically ready for the quarter-finals," he says.
He will be ready, and Srezez hopes that his father – who is now back home – will be too much.
"I hope he will recover soon and enjoy our other races," he says.
Full name: Parattu Raveendran Sreejesh
Born: May 8, 1988. Kochi
India debut: 2006
International Appearances: 207
World Cup Impressions: 3 (2010, 2014, 2018)
THE GLOBAL WORLDWIDE
- Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh believed that the last game of India against Canada, in which he took four goals in the second half after a 1-1 close in the first half, gave them the right spring in the step he took to the quarterfinals on Thursday.
- "It was a good trip so far," said Sreejesh for the Indian show in the three championship matches. "The Belgian match was very difficult, it is one of the favorites in this tournament (India has scored with Belgium 2-2).
- Even the last fight (with Canada) was very good for us. We shot at our potential, we gathered our trust. This will keep us in good spirits as we prepare for the quarter-finals, "he added.