Hockey World Cup 2023: 'By the time Sreejesh stops, Krishan will still be a young guy' - Van de Pol
Hockey World Cup 2023 is being held in India, while PR Sreejesh is making his fourth and possibly last WC appearance for the hosts. Meanwhile, India's goalkeeping coach Dennis van de Pol has backed Krishan Pathak as his successor.
Indian hockey team's goalkeeping coach Dennis van de Pol strongly feels that young custodian Krishan Pathak has matured enough and is ready to replace the peerless PR Sreejesh as and when the veteran decides to call time on his glorious career. Pathak, 25, was on standby for Sreejesh in the Tokyo Olympics, where India won a historic bronze medal. But, after the Tokyo Games, Pathak has been a regular for India, with both goalies -- other being Sreejesh -- taking turns to guard the goal in the four quarters. At 34, Sreejesh is at the twilight of his career, having been India's go-to-man in front of the goal for over 16 years.
"I have worked a couple of times in camps with the Indian team. In December in Bengaluru, I worked with nine goalies, of which three were from the first team -- Sreejesh, Krishan Pathak and Suraj Karkera. The goalies from the 2019 batch of India juniors are now in the senior group. So, there are good plans for the future," Van de Pol told PTI.
"The other good part is that the two goalies of the senior team -- Krishan and Sreejesh play in quarters. Krishan is junior to Sree, so he is very exposed in big matches. So, he is the guy for the future. By the time Sreejesh stops, Krishan will still be a young guy with a lot of experience," added van de Pol.
Van de Pol, who worked with Drijver Goalie Academy in the Netherlands and the KNHB (Koninklijke Nederlandse Hockey Bond), also trains the Dutch youth national sides, said not just goalkeeping, hockey as a sport has evolved over the years. "It's not only goalkeeping that has evolved over the years, but hockey itself has evolved a lot. The game got a lot faster. Most teams can do quick counters. People are getting so much strong and fitter in hockey, and you need to be able to adapt to that," the 44-year-old voiced.
"For goalkeepers, it has become much faster. You must be more than just a goalie and stay in your line and save the goal-bound balls. Nowadays, it would be best if you were an all-round goalie. It would help if you were a good shot-stopper and good in PC anticipation. Last but not least, you need to organise your entire defence, which is an extensive skill," continued van de Pol.
"At times, you saw Sreejesh coming out of his goal and putting pressure on one-on-one situations. Being able to read the positioning of rival players inside the 'D' and then acting accordingly is the key," Van de Pol elaborated. He has been working with the Indian goalies for quite some time now and said in the short camp before the HWC, the main focus was on revisiting the stuff worked upon and also working on shortcomings at the same time.
"The camp was an advantage, but these camps should be held more often, and the goalies also feel so—some techniques they tend to forget. But, in the camp, I reminded them of those things. The significant part was getting them to their best, getting the techniques which I taught them in the past in their system," remembered van de Pol.
"We also focussed on many new things that evolved in goalkeeping. One big thing is defending penalty corners. They can save balls on their right side, but they are vulnerable on their left side, and we focussed on that a lot," sounded van de Pol. He feels India has a solid all-round team to make it to the podium in the HWC, currently underway in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela.
"We have a good, strong team. We have a strong defence. Against England, the attack was not that great, but the defence was solid even when we were a man down. In defending penalty corners, we are powerful. Against England, we conceded seven PCs, but the goalie didn't have to make a single save as the defence did its job," Van de Pol concluded, who was formerly associated with the Canadian women's team.
(With inputs from PTI)