Former Indian hockey skipper and star goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who is back in action following an eight-month injury lay-off, on Thursday said that he is now fully fit to play the game at international level.
The 29-year-old was forced to miss some of the key tournaments in 2017 due to a knee injury, which he sustained in the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament last year.
However, Hockey India has now recalled Sreejesh in the 20-member India squad for the Four Nations Invitational Tournament in New Zealand, starting on January 17.
Talking to ANI, Sreejesh said that the upcoming tournament would be a test period for him where he would try to analyse himself as well as improve himself for future.
“This four-nation tournament is going to happen in New Zealand. Eight-month is a huge break and what you are before and after the injury is different. So, it is a test period where I want to improve. This is the time for me where I want to analyze myself and to plan the future programmes,” Sreejesh said.
“I think I am good enough now because I started jogging after two months of my injury. So, there was a good sign and then another three more months strengthening and some other trainings to improve my fitness levels. Now, I feel like I am fit enough to play hockey at international level,” he added.
Sreejesh will be joined by young goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak who was member of the 2016 Junior World Cup winning team.
The team will be led by 25-year-old midfielder Manpreet Singh while Chinglensana Singh Kangujam will shoulder the responsibility of vice captain.
New inclusions in the team are forward Dilpreet Singh and midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad who are rewarded for their promising performance at the 7th Sultan of Johor Cup last year.
India’s defence features Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar – all three will double-up as dragflickers. They will be joined by Birendra Lakra, Surender Kumar and Gurinder Singh in the defense-line.
The midfield will see skipper Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Harjeet Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Satbir Singh along with debut players Simranjeet Singh and Vivek.
India’s attack will see Ramandeep Singh return to the team with young gun Armaan Qureshi, Dilpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh and Lalit Upadhyay.
Speaking about the squad for the tournament, Sreejesh said that the team is a perfect blend of young and experienced players before giving special emphasis to defender Harmanpreet Singh.
“The team is really good now and if you analyze the performances in the last two tournaments-Asia Cup and Hockey World League (HWL) Finals. Definitely, the team showed the consistent improvement. But still, I think we need to improve in a lot of areas. I think the youngsters are really putting efforts and they always try to give their best for the team and that is the positive sign.We have got a mixer of youngsters and seniors. I think more of the players have got 100 caps and that is a good sign for 2018. Especially, Harmanpreet Singh is a really talented player He has got some good skills for penalty corners. It is really important to play a key role in the team. He is an upcoming talent,” he said.
India will compete with Belgium, Japan and hosts New Zealand at Tauranga and Hamilton in the four-nation tournament.