India's numero uno hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh will be out of action for at least five months following a knee surgery, which effectively means he will miss the Asia Cup to be held in Dhaka in October, 2017.
Sreejesh, who was badly missed by the team in the just- concluded Hockey World League Semi-Final in London, went under the knife earlier this month in Mumbai after he sustained a ligament tear in his right knee during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April-May this year.
According to India hockey's High Performance Director David John, Sreejesh will take at least five months to return to full fitness, which means he has a bright chance of playing in the year-ending Hockey World League Final, to be held in Bhubaneswar in December.
“We missed Sreejesh badly. Vikas Dahiya and Akash Chikte are young and they are no match for top goalkeepers of the world. We need to develop our second line of keepers in the next six months.
“Sreejesh is out of action. He underwent a surgery under Dr Anant Joshi 10 days back in Mumbai and he will need at least 5 to 6 months to return to full fitness,” John told PTI.
“Sreejesh will definitely miss the Asia Cup but we will try our best to make him fully fit before the all-important Hockey World League Final in December. But it also give us time to work with and develop our reserve keepers,” he said.
Being the High Performance Director, John has analysed India's lacklustre outing in the HWL Semi-Final in London.
“We need to work on our defence. We need to find some faster defenders because in London we were caught in counter attacks by Malaysia and Canada for lack of speed,” he said.
“We also need to work on our conversions. Throughout the tournament we had far more opportunities in and around opposition circle, we had far more chances. We had high number of circle penetrations. We need to improve our efficiency in scoring,” John added.
By just stating that the Indian team needs faster defenders, John has literally hinted at the end of VR Raghunath's international career.
“Raghu is not the fastest and as I said speed in defence is a big problem for us. We had left out Raghu from the last core probables list but a new list will be made soon after the Senior Nationals. But at present Rupinder (Pal Singh) and Harmanpreet (Singh) are a good battery,” the Australian said.
John, however, ruled out any radical changes in the structure of the team and the support staff in the aftermath of HWL Semi-Finals performance.
He said just like any other tournament, a review meeting on the performance will be held next week and the coaches, including chief coach Roelant Oltmans will have to answer some tough questions.
“We will have a review meeting next week after we receive the coach's report, which generally comes within 48 hours. It's a routine exercise which is held after every tournament. But definitely some tough questions will be asked,” John said.
“(But) I don't think there is going to be any changes because a team needs stability over a period of time.”
Oltmans will not be a part of the meeting as he will be travelling straight to The Netherlands from London for a short break.
The players will also enjoy a break before assembling for the national camp again on July 12.