Rio de Janerio, Aug 4 - Leading the Indian hockey team at the Olympics is a dream come true for captain P.R.
Sreejesh, but as the skipper he is keen to pass around the leader's arm-band among the seniors. "I never thought I will captain India at the Olympics. It's like living a dream and I really feel honoured to be captain of the national team here in Rio de Janeiro," says Sreejesh, preparing mentally for the campaign that will start on Saturday when India take on Ireland in the first preliminary league outing.
"Hockey is a very prestigious thing in our country. Leading India at the Olympics is also a big responsibility," said Sreejesh. "I will be the captain, but on the field I will not wear the captain's arm band," says Sreejesh. "We have a whole bunch of seniors in the team. To me, leadership is a responsibility to be shared between the senior players," the captain said. "Four senior players will share the responsibility and also the captain's band," said Sreejesh, asserting that "this will help us take the leadership quality to the field." "Each position will have one leader leading the challenge in their respective position.
The defence, midfield and the forward lineup will each have a leader, and that's our strategy for the team to seize the initiative," Sreejesh said.
Coming from Kerala, a sport-loving state that is otherwise not well-known for its hockey talent, the lanky Sreejesh has earned his credentials through excellent work under the bar.
It was his cool composure under the bar that won India the Asian Games title at Incheon two years ago - following a penalty shootout against arch hockey rivals and defending champions Pakistan.
It was under stand-in captain Sreejesh's leadership that India got a silver medal at the Champions Trophy in London two months ago.
He was captaining the team as regular captain Sardar Singh had been rested. Soon after, the team management and selectors decided to put Sreejesh in charge of the squad for the Olympic Games.
Returning to the Olympic arena, where India finished at the botton of the 12-team competition four years ago in the London Olympics, Sreejesh still feels the pain of that debacle, although he was the reserve goalkeeper behind the then captain Bharat Chhetri.
Sreejesh is one of the six remaining players from the squad that travelled from India to London with a lot of hopes, but ended with the wooden spoon.
The captain says he still feels the pain of the London debacle, but this is his chance of writing a new script for Indian hockey.
India no longer feature in the top echelons of international hockey, but the young generation of players are eager to carve a niche for themselves, says Sreejesh.
The young skipper says he has the support of former captain Sardar Singh, who is always there to help him.
It was at the Champions Trophy, where India featured in the title round for the first time that the captain's armband got switched from match to match.
Rio de Janeiro could see India bring that element into their hockey team's leadership into the Olympic campaign.
"My idea of the team is putting a hand on the shoulder of my teammate and walking together," says Sreejesh.