HOCKEY TEAM GOALKEEPER PR Sreejesh feels India need to go through tough tests against top teams to excel in next year's Rio Olympics.
Sreejesh dedicated his Arjun award to the whole team, and said his recognition will motivate he and his teammates to do well in upcoming tournaments.
"This is not my award, this belongs to the whole team. Hockey is a team game and I alone cannot bring medal for the country. It is a huge honour and responsibility as well and we will be motivated to do well in future tournaments," Sreejesh told PTI Bhasha.
"We are ranked 8th in the world and one should not expect us to be a world champion overnight. But yes this team has potential and we can beat any team on our day. No team is invincible in modern hockey and we have beaten teams like Australia, New Zealand.
"All we need is to gain more and more experience and tests against top teams. We need to fine tune our game like taking correct decisions in crucial moments to maintain the consistency level and must handle the pressure well. We must not succumb under the pressure of big matches. This will come with experience of playing more against big teams," he said.
The experienced goalkeeper from Kerala, who has played 121 international matches for India, feels it was advantageous for India to qualify early for the Rio Games but they need to improve further to come up with better results in the mega-event.
India will tour New Zealand for a Test series next month while host Australia in October-November. They will also feature in the Hockey World League Finals later this year in Raipur.
Asked if the off-field controversies, including the unceremonious exits of chief coach Terry Walsh and Paul Van Ass have affected the team, Sreejesh replied replied in the negative.
"Players are matured enough to not get affected by off-field events. We are focusing of our on-field performance only as we all know how important Olympics is for us. This team is together for almost last two years and bonding well which will augur well in our favour," said the 27-year-old.
He idolises former India goalkeeper Adrian D'souza and feel shy when people call him 'the wall of Indian hockey'.
"Since the beginning of my career, I have been hearing Rahul Dravid is the wall of Indian cricket. I feel humbled and honoured when people call me 'the wall of Indian hockey' now. It is a huge responsibility," he said.