India's quest for a maiden Commonwealth Games title remained unfulfilled after losing to Australia in the final but goalkeeper PR Sreejesh feels they have become more mentally stronger now and have shown great improvement in the just-concluded quadrennial event. (Also read: Indian hockey team to tour Bangladesh)
India lost 4-0 to world champions Australia in the final of the Glasgow Games on Sunday and squandered yet another chance to avenge their 8-0 thrashing at the hands of the same opponents in the 2010 Delhi edition of the Games. (Also read: Glasgow CWG hailed best ever in rousing closing ceremony)
"We were not thinking about the Delhi Games final (going into Sunday's match). We have played Australia in the recent past and while we lost 4-0 in the World Cup, the margin was 2-4 in the league match of Glasgow CWG. It shows that we are improving and can beat top teams like Australia in future," Sreejesh told PTI Bhasha from Glasgow. (Medal tally)
"Indian players are mentally stronger now. We are not at the desired level but we have improved for sure. We have shown that in the semifinal match against New Zealand in the manner in which we came back and won despite conceding two early goals," he said.
Sreejesh feels India should now focus on winning more against higher ranked opponents.
"We should focus on beating world ranked 3rd and 4th teams. This is a young side and will play with more confidence after gaining experience at the top level," he said.
He said that India were well deserved silver medallists in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
"We have played with consistency and were the deserved finalists. This medal will inspire us to do better and instill the confidence that we can achieve podium finishes at the top level," said Sreejesh.
Sreejesh said the next goal for India now is to win the gold medal in the upcoming Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
"We want to maintain the rhythm. The results show that our preparation is going in the right direction but we have to maintain consistency," he said.
Asked about India's weak links, he said the team should avoid conceding goals in the initial stages of a game.
"We were used to conceding goals in dying moments but in this tournament, we have also given some silly goals in the early minutes. We have to work on this. Our penalty corner conversion was better (here) but we will have to work harder," said the ace goalkeeper.
Asked if the team was more aggressive in the semifinal against New Zealand due to the suspension of captain Sardar Singh, he said: "We have prepared to play in such a way that the absence of any key player could not affect our performance. Our coaches should be given credit for that. We did not let Sardar's absence affect our performance."