After a year mostly spent in national camps at the Sports Authority of India [SAI] Centre in Bengaluru, the Indian team knows more than a bit about staying and surviving inside a bubble. But how different things are on tour can be gauged from the words of veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who is captaining the side in Europe.
“At the Bengaluru SAI Centre, we are allowed to walk around, we have our freedom. But when it comes to the international arena, it’s quite hard to sit inside a room and practice one session a day amid a lot of meetings. That freedom we are missing,” said Sreejesh talking to Timesofindia.com from Belgium.
The Indian team is currently in Antwerp for the second leg of their tour against Great Britain. The Britishers held India to a 1-1 draw in the first unofficial Test. The concluding game of the tour will be played later today.
The first leg of the tour in Germany and the current one in Belgium are both being played behind closed doors. But Sreejesh said that hardly makes a difference to the teams.
(Sreejesh with fellow India goalkeeper Krishan Pathank – Photo from Sreejesh Twitter)
“(At) Most of the four-nation or six-nation tournaments, we play in front of small crowds. So that doesn’t make any huge difference to our game plans,” said the 32-year-old veteran, who is leading the side in the absence of regular skipper Manpreet Singh.
Manpreet opted out of the tour due to personal reasons.
“But for us, some things are really disturbing,” Sreejesh added. “Like you cannot step out of your hotel, you need to be in the bubble, your dining hall is different, you are totally separated from other people. It is quite hard for everyone, because your movement is restricted.”
Sreejesh, however, echoed the collective sentiment of players about being thankful for being able to return to the international pitch, albeit at the cost of some amount of freedom.
Play hockey and read books….. That is what I have done last 4 months 😊😎#hockey #training #books #reading… https://t.co/Rb1kUTBDw5
— sreejesh p r (@16Sreejesh) 1607069355000
“Getting enough international matches is more important for us at this moment. We are focussing on performing better than before. We want to get back into the normal rhythm, where we left last time. From there, we need to start and improve,” Sreejesh further told TimesofIndia.com.
Before this tour, India last played against Australia at home in the Pro League back in February 2020.
In the first leg of the Europe tour, India started by routing the Germans 6-1 in Krefeld, before the hosts came back to draw the second match 1-1.
“About Germany, we started on a good note. [In the] Second match they played a bit differently, but still we managed to hold them,” said Sreejesh about the two games played in Germany.
Good experience for our young ones today, Good bounce back from German team,ended the game 1-1, #test #series… https://t.co/crMg6RyMTt
— sreejesh p r (@16Sreejesh) 1614709357000
“They have a very good defensive structure. In the first match, we punished them for their mistakes. In the second game, they played more carefully, more defensive hockey, and managed to stop our forwards from scoring,” he further added.
Coach Graham Reid, meanwhile, was “happy” with the way the games against Germany panned out, and the outcome has provided feedback pointers that he can work on moving closer to the Pro League matches from next month, followed by the Olympics.
“I was really happy with the German part of the tour,” said Reid, replying to Timesofindia.com.
(India coach Graham Reid – Photo from HI Twitter)
“The team we played [against] is pretty much the team they [Germany) fielded against the Dutch yesterday [on Sunday in the Pro League match]. I think we would have warmed them up [laughs].
“I am very happy the way it [matches against Germany] went. Competition was very strong and we played such a different game of hockey, different styles. Our guys experienced that and now we have videos to analyse, work to do,” Reid added to conclude.
After the Europe tour, the Indian team will return home on March 10 and then get back on the road with their first away Pro League fixture in Argentina on April 9 and 10.