Krishan Pathak ready to replace Sreejesh when time comes, says India’s hockey goalkeeping coach


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 standby to 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. Back in December in Bengaluru, I worked with nine goalies out of which three are from the first team — Sreejesh, Krishan Pathak and Suraj Karkera,” Van de Pol told PTI.

“The goalies from the 2019 batch of India juniors are now in senior group. So there is definitely good plans for the future.

“The other good part is that both the two goalies of senior team — Krishan and Sreejesh play in quarters. Krishan is much junior to Sree, so he is exposed quite a lot 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,” he added.

Van de Pol, who workd with Drijver Goalie Academy in the Netherlands as well as the KNHB (Koninklijke Nederlandse Hockey Bond), and 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 are able to 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 said.

“For goalkeepers it has become much faster. You cannot be just a goalie and stay in your line and save the goal bound balls. Nowadays, you need to be an all-round goalie. You need to be a good shot-stopper, you need to be good in PC anticipation. Last but not least, you need to organise your entire defence and it is a big skill.

“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,” he elaborated.

Van de Pol, who has been working with the Indian goalies for quite sometime now, said in the short camp before the World Cup, 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 sort of 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. Big part was getting them to their best, getting the techniques, which I taught them in the past, in their system.

“We also focussed on a lot of new things that evolved in goalkeeping. One big thing is defending penalty corners. They are able to save balls on their right side, but they are vulnerable on their left side and we focussed on that a lot,” he said.

He feels India have a strong all-round team to make it to the podium in the World Cup, 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 pretty solid, strong even when we were a man down.

“In defending penalty corners, we are really strong. Against England, we conceded 7 PCs, but the goalie didn’t have to make a single save as the defence did its job,” said Van de Pol, who was formerly associated with the Canadian women’s team.





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