Learning how to handle pressure from PR Sreejesh, says goalkeeper Pawan Malik
Pawan Malik has made rapid strides in hockey with impressive performances right from his Junior India days. With Krishan Pathak on personal leave for his wedding earlier this year, Pawan stepped into a larger role for senior side during the Rourkela leg of the FIH Hockey Pro League matches in March.
It was a big opportunity and Pawan lived up to the billing. "It was nerve-racking to play against top sides like Germany and Australia. The speed and the attack they bring on were very different from what I was generally used to in my junior days. But the team really backed me and having spent a lot of time with experienced players in the camp helped a lot," stated the 21-year-old whose performance drew parallels with Germany's star goalie Jean-Paul Danneberg who also happens to be the same age as Pawan.
"It feels nice when people recognize my performance but there is still a lot I need to work on. Working with someone like PR Sreejesh, a legend who has nearly two decades of experience, has helped me understand how to handle pressure in big-match situations. To play alongside him in the Pro League was a dream come true moment for me and I just wanted to focus on the job assigned to me," added Pawan who was part of India's Silver Medal feat at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in 2018.
Currently in camp along with four other goalies namely Prashant Kumar Chauhan, Suraj Karkera, Krishan Pathak and Sreejesh, Pawan is aware that finding a place in the Indian side is not an easy feat. "I am not too worried about getting a chance to play for India at the moment. I know when the time comes, I will make it but until then I need to hone my skills and be the best in my game. Even if I don't get matches now, there is a lot that I get to learn every day in the senior camp," said the youngster who was India's custodian at the FIH Junior Men's Hockey World Cup 2021 in Bhubaneswar.
The Indian Men's Hockey Core Group is based in SAI, Bengaluru where they are putting in the hard yards under Chief Coach Craig Fulton who took charge last week. The team is preparing for the European leg of the FIH Hockey Pro League and currently continues to lead the points table with 5 straight wins and 2 from shootouts in 8 matches they have played so far. Speaking about the ongoing camp, Pawan said, "It's been an exciting and fun camp so far with each one of us pushing the other in every session. We focused a lot on fitness and agility in the first few weeks of the camp with lots of endurance workouts."
"Now with the new Chief Coach here, there is a lot of energy in the camp and everyone is working really hard to achieve good results in the Pro League and the upcoming Asian Games," Pawan signed off.