Hockey

A tale of two custodians

Bharath Chetri

Bharath Chetri   | Photo Credit: K Murali Kumar

They find virtue in complementing each other, than getting engaged in a duel of one-upmanship. The Indian team reaps the benefits.

In the absence of a goalkeeping coach, captain Bharat Chetri, with 122 caps, and the young P.R. Sreejesh, 42 caps, are best friends and critics of each other.

For, they understand the pressure of standing 70 minutes under the bar, giving constant feedback to teammates up the field and blocking fierce shots from rival strikers.

The teamwork between the two is even more important in the run-up to the crucial Olympic hockey qualifier.

“There is no rivalry between us. I point out Sreejesh's mistakes and he does the same with me. We watch the videos and find out the positives and negatives of our game,” said Chetri, during an interaction at the National Stadium here on Monday. “Both of us really work together,” said Sreejesh.

The duo felt reassured with the improvement in the quality of defence, thanks to the contribution of veteran defender Dilip Tirkey.

“Dilip has worked with the defenders and the backline has improved. The focus is not to concede last minute goals,” said Sreejesh.

Chetri added, “We got a lot of inputs from Dilip. He has told them (defenders) to go and get the ball early from the opposition forwards.”

While the Indian strikers practised hard on scoring from goalmouth deflections and rebounds, the custodians protecting the post, also benefited in the process.

“The drill was done to help us get a hang of match situations. Scoring from deflections was a main area. However, it was also good for us (to learn how to stop such attempts from close range),” said Sreejesh. “We also practised how to stop penalty corners, D-top shots and one-on-one penalty shootouts.”

With the qualifier set to start in less than a week, the anxiety was understandable.

“We are fine-tuning our skills these days. I cannot wait for the tournament to start,” said 30-year-old Chetri, who was a member the Indian team that made an abortive attempt to reach the Olympics four years ago.

“It is like getting closer to a big exam. You need to remind yourself of what you need to do. In order to keep ourselves calm, we are doing meditation,” added Sreejesh.

After all, celebrating alone when a goal is scored and taking the blame when a goal is conceded, demands that extra bit of strength!

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 10:24:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/a-tale-of-two-custodians/article2890210.ece

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