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PR Sreejesh: The penalty corner save against Germany might be the most important save of my life

The goalkeeper is an admirer of Virat Kohli and wants to emulate his penchant for perfection
By Soham Mukherjee

PR Sreejesh stood like a mountain under the sticks for India at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It was a team effort but Sreejesh's heroics stood out as the men in blue went on to finish on the podium at the Olympics after an excruciating wait of 41 years.

He made 40 saves during the tournament and has prevented uncountable balls from hitting the net throughout his career. But one of them has a special place in his heart.

Seven seconds to go for the final hooter and India conceded a penalty corner against Germany in the bronze medal playoff match. Graham Reid in the dugout is tensed and vexed, while India's first rushers get into position to put their body on the line. The drag-flick from Lukas Windfeder pierced through the defence but Sreejesh made sure that the white ball did not go past him.

"Was it the most important save in my career? Umm, you can say that now. That save has its own importance. Because Olympic medal is the biggest medal that one can win. That save helped me to win the medal and it is the biggest day of my life," he expressed to Olympics.com.

And even after numerous felicitations and award functions, the feeling of finally winning an Olympic medal is yet to sink in.

"It is a different feeling altogether. I have waited for this moment as a fan and as a player for far too long. And finally, when you get to touch that medal it is going to be different. I am still on cloud nine," he laughed.

The hockey player is a keen follower of other sports as well. From cricket to athletics he hardly misses any action. And unsurprisingly, he is keeping a close tab on the Indian cricket team's performance in England. In fact, when quizzed about his favourite athlete he named India skipper Virat Kohli.

The prolific batsman is one of the best in the world and boasts of an average of over-50 in all formats of the game. Although he is currently struggling for big runs in England, his strive for perfection is something Sreejesh admires the most in him.

"Virat Kohli is really good. He is a person who tries to play each ball perfectly. It doesn't matter if he is playing Bangladesh or Australia, he will give his best shot. That's the best thing you can learn," he stated.

The 33-year-old is a voracious reader as well. After training, he often likes to relax with a book in his hand instead of doing other things. When he suffered an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury in 2017, it was Andre Agassi's autobiography Open that gave him company.

"I read a lot. I like to read autobiographies and self-development books. Open helped me get through my ACL injury and Armstrong's 'Every Second Counts is an incredible book. It was the book that I read before flying to Tokyo. It is so much related to hockey as in hockey also every second counts. I also read fiction but these two genres I prefer the most."

Seven seconds could have made all the difference. And who else knows it better than Sreejesh?