New Delhi: After playing a stellar role in India's title win at the Asian Champions Trophy, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh is hoping that his exploits at the tournament will help him cement a place in the national hockey team.

Sreejesh is struggling to become a permanent member of the side ever since making his India debut five years back in the Colombo SAAF Games.

Sreejesh turned out to be one of the star performers for India in the Asian Champions Trophy, effecting two saves in the tie-breaker in India's 4-2 win over arch-rivals Pakistan in the summit clash of the tournament in Ordos, China.

The Kerela custodian, who plays for Indian Overseas Bank, also sparkled in the group stages of the tournament, conceding just three goals from the three matches he had played.

"I am really very satisfied with my performance. I played three matches, including the final and conceded only three goals, so I can take pride from my performance," Sreejesh said.

"So far I had to fight a lot with injuries and has been on and off from the team. But now I am fully fit and enjoying my hockey. The Champions Trophy performance boosted my confidence. I want to perform consistently for the team and hope it will help in making my presence felt," he said.

Asked whom he would like to dedicate his performance, he mentioned the name of out-of-favour India goalkeeper Adrian D'souza, who he says "is my best buddy in the team".

The lanky goalkeeper also feels that the Asian Champions Trophy title will do a world of good for erstwhile hockey giants, India, whose Australian coach Micheal Nobbs is battling against time to prepare the team for next year's London Olympic qualifiers.

"It's a worthy achievement for the team and that too winning against Pakistan in the final was a something special.

All the boys are very proud of their performances. I also feel very proud and honoured to have played a part in the win," Sreejesh said.

"As a whole, the team performed very well. We played as a unit. This win will act as a confidence booster for us for the upcoming tournaments. It is a good start ahead of the Olympic qualifiers," he added.

The FIH's decision to shift December's Champions Trophy out of the country to New Zealand due to ongoing power struggle between Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation has undoubtedly upset Sreejesh but he hoped India will play the Olympic qualifiers in February before the home crowd.

He was of the view that playing before a partisan home crowd will work in India's favour in the Olympic qualifiers but also did not rule out the country's chances of booking a London ticket even if the FIH decides to shift the event away to another country.

"We will do whatever it takes to qualify. We will give our best but playing the qualifiers before home crowd would have given us a big advantage," Sreejesh insisted.
Sreejesh was also full of praise for coach Michael Nobbs but said it was too early to compare the Australian with his predecessors.

"He is a good coach. He gives us freedom to play our attacking style of hockey. He prefers to stay quiet in the background.

"But at the same time you cannot assess anyone from just one tournament. He is in charge of the team for the last three months and it is a very short period to comment anything," he said.

Like any other athlete, Sreejesh also dreams of winning an Olympic gold and hopes he can contribute in breaking eight-time champion India's medal jinx in the mega-event, which last came way back in the 1980 Moscow Games.

"When I started playing hockey I did not have any future plans. I just wanted to play for my state (Kerela). But now I my main goal is to the gold medal in the Olympics. I hope I will be able to realise my goal," he said.

(Agencies)