Who will be India’s first-choice Goalkeeper at the FIH Hockey World Cup : PR Sreejesh or Krishan Bahadur Pathak?

The FIH Hockey World cup 2023 is set to get underway within a week and all the 16 teams are preparing to win the ultimate prize on offer. For the second time in a row, Bhuvaneshwar will host the event and Rourkela has also been chosen as the hosts for the 2023 edition of the  World.

As the Hockey world cup begins, there are a number of questions that are surrounding the minds of Hockey fans around the country. If India will win the world cup or not is of course one of them. Will they get past the group stages is another? But before we find out those answers, let’s discuss who will be trusted to be the first-choice goalkeeper for team India in the world cup.

As we all know, PR Sreejesh and Krishan Bahadur Pathak are the two recognized goalkeepers who have been selected. Both the goalkeepers have served the national team for years now and they have rescued the team from delicate situations. Sreejesh is by far more experienced than Krishan Bahadur having made his international debut in 2006.

The 34-year-old has been able to hold on to his spot for a long period of time and has seen many goalkeepers come and go. His Senior International debut came against Sri-Lanka during the 2006 Asian Games and in that phase he fought against competitors like Bharat Chettri, Akash Chikte, Harjot Singh, Vikas Dahiya and Suraj Karkera.

PR Sreejesh

None of the above mentioned Goalies were able to replace the Kerala born Keeper who has appeared 274 times for the National team. Since 2006, Sreejesh has featured in 10 major tournaments and has been the first-choice goalkeeper. His reliability and dependability between the posts have been talked about a lot.

He has wealth of experience and his efficiency cannot be questioned at all. Having climbed the ladder from the 2004 Junior International Hockey team. He came into the spotlight after making several saves during the Asian Champions’ Trophy final against Pakistan in 2011 and since then no one has been able to replace him.

Sreejesh has played 3 World cups, 2 Commonwealth Games and 2 Asian games. He has indeed played Hockey at the highest level and he is undoubtedly a huge asset for team India. The Padma Shree, Bharat Ratna and Athlete of the year of 2021 has helped India in stiff situations and thanks to him, India secured Bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, Silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth games, Bronze and Gold at the 2018 and 2014 Asian games.

His deputy Krishan Bahadur Pathak on the other hand has been gaining a lot of traction as well since his debut in 2018. Sreejesh’s deputy Krishan bahadur started as the second-choice goalie for India during their tour to New Zealand in 2018. He ultimately earned his debut in that year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup before going back to the reserves during their next tour to Australia, FIH Men’s Series Finals and the World cup.

Though he has been a part of the Indian side which has won Silver Medal at the Champions trophy 2018 and Bronze Medal in the same year. During the Tokyo Olympics, however, Pathak became a well-known name due to his performance at the cost of Sreejesh’s fatigue. The 25-year-old stepped up for the occasion and showed that if India are in safe hands even after PR Sreejesh’s possible retirement in future.

His peak days are still ahead of him and he did show consistency whenever provided with the opportunity. Bahadur comes from the reputed Surjit Singh academy at Jalandhar, which has honed the talents of many hockey players like Manpreet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Hardik Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Shamsher Singh and Simranjeet Singh.

The 25-year-old shot stopper had put up a brilliant performance during India’s tour to Belgium in 2019 and became a crucial member of the team in the FIH series Finals and Olympic qualifiers. In 2020, he shared the Goalkeeping duties evenly with Sreejesh and head coach Graham Reid can bank on him in tough situations.

He could be a game changer too as it was seen from him during the FIH Pro League. His reliant performance saw him out stretch PR Sreejesh to win the Baljit Singh award for the best goalkeeper in 2019. Though, he could not replace Sreejesh at Olympics but he is definitely one for the future.

Since 2018, both Pathak and Sreejesh have had equal chances of playing for India but given the fact that the former has more experience, he gets the preference more than Pathak. Sreejesh’s presence over the head of Pathak is a positive one for India as the 34-year-old still has time to groom his young counterpart.

And Krishan Bahadur Pathak has learnt a lot from his senior. In terms of leadership, communicating on the field and operating in tough situations. Even when Pathak doesn’t play, he cheers and motivates his teammates and it indicates how much he is invested in the progress of the national team.

If Bahadur keeps up with the same attitude and remains charged up he could get some time during the World cup. But given the fact that India have been drawn to the Group of death which has teams like England, Spain and Wales, head coach Graham Reid will wihtout a doubt turn to PR Sreejesh.

The 34-year-old has played in 2 world cups before and knows the intensity and importance of the first 3 group fixtures. So, according to us Reid will bank on the experience of Sreejesh but Krishan Bahadur Pathak in a very short span of time has developed into a trust-able Keeper.

PR Sreejesh will start in the group stages at least and if India win their first 2 matches, Graham Reid can give Bahadur Pathak playing time at the FIH Men’s Hockey World cup starting from January 13.

Also Read – How strong is India’s squad for Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023? Let’s Ponder in detail