Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a hallmark decision, announced the renaming of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award as Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award. Major Dhyan Chand Singh is the man who marked India’s identity in the sports world. Thus, the highest sports honour should have been named after him only and not Rajiv Gandhi, who had little to do with sports. However, PM Modi rectified the mistake and the award has been renamed after the person who is worthy of the honour. And what better man than PR Sreejesh, the wall of Indian Hockey, to be the first receiver of the award.
Ever since the Indian men’s hockey team won bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics 2020 to break the 41 year jinx, PR Sreejesh, the goalkeeper of the men’s hockey team, has become the talk of the town and is assumed to be the biggest contender for the first Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award.
Sreejesh kick started his journey, back in early 2000, when he used to watch the senior Indian players go through their paces. He debuted with Junior national team for a match against Australia in 2004 and quickly made it to the senior national team in 2006, at the South Asian Games. He was awarded the ‘Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament’, following India’s victory at the 2008 Junior Asia Cup. Having been a part of the Indian team for six years, he bagged his second ‘Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament’ award at the 2013 Asia Cup.
Sreejesh also represented India at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and then the World Cup in 2014. He excelled in Indian’s gold medal win at the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea when he saved two penalty strokes against Pakistan in the final. At the 2014 Champions Trophy as well as the 2018 Champions Trophy, he was again announced the “Goalkeeper of the Tournament”. He was the captain of the team that won silver at the 2016 Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy held at London.
In 2016, Sreejesh replaced Sardar Singh for the responsibilities of the Captain of the Indian hockey team. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio when India made its quarterfinal exit, Sreejesh, who captained the team, tweeted, “Rio over.. pain remains. Sorry for letting you down.”
— sreejesh p r (@16Sreejesh) August 14, 2016
Recently, Sreejesh played a key role in defeating Germany 5-4 to clinch the bronze medal for India and break the 41 years jinx at the Tokyo Olympics, on 5th August 2021.
Right after claiming the bronze medal, the hockey player took to twitter to pay tribute to his father who he called “my hero” and to whom he dedicated his victory. “This medal is for you my achaaan (father)… My hero, he is why I’m here,” Sreejesh tweeted.
This medal is for you my achaaan ( father )
My hero, he is why I’m here pic.twitter.com/1OdO5eZwaw
— sreejesh p r (@16Sreejesh) August 5, 2021
The Tokyo Olympics‘ official website also quoted Padma Shri recipient Sreejesh after the win and tweeted, “This is a beautiful game. Now we are giving a reason for them (boys and girls across India) to pick up hockey… and make the country more proud,” PR Sreejesh – now a three-time Olympian, the website added.
It was indeed PR Sreejesh’s superhuman efforts that ensured victory for the Indian Men’s Hockey team at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Ever since the beginning of his career, he has continued to put illustrious feathers in India’s cap. Thus, his immense contribution towards sports to maintain India’s honor in the sporting arena makes him a worthy contender for the first Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award.