Handed a place in the senior Indian team during the FIH Pro League in March, young goalkeeper Pawan Malik says competing against world's top teams was "nerve-racking" but working with the legendary PR Sreejesh helped him to handle pressure.
The 21-year-old impressed with his skills during India's recent unbeaten outing in Pro League games in Rourkela.
With Krishan Pathak on personal leave for his wedding earlier this year, Pawan stepped into a larger role for the senior side during the Rourkela leg in March against World Champions Germany and the mighty Australians.
"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," he said in a Hockey India release.
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"But the team really backed me and having spent a lot of time with experienced players in the camp helped a lot." The 21-year-old has made rapid strides in hockey with impressive performances right from his Junior India days. His performance at Pro League drew parallels with Germany's star goalie Jean-Paul Danneberg who also happens to be the same age.
"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." Pawan, who was part of India's silver medal-winning feat at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in 2018, is currently in camp along with four other goalies namely Prashant Kumar Chauhan, Suraj Karkera, Krishan Pathak and Sreejesh.
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"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," he said.
"Even if I don't get matches now, there is a lot that I get to learn every day in the senior camp." 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 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.
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