Young hockey goalkeeper Suraj Karkera was pleasantly surprised to get a India call-up and said the chance to rub shoulders alongside PR Sreejesh during the upcoming Azlan Shah Cup will make him a better custodian.
The goalkeeper from Mumbai has already started taking tips from senior colleague Sreejesh, who advised him to remain calm on the pitch.
“I never expected this. It was a huge surprise because I was attending the senior camp for the first time in my career,” Karkera said after being named in the 18-member squad.
“Sreejesh bhai (brother) advised me not to take pressure. He told me ‘you are just 21 and you making your debut, so just keep training hard with a big smile on your face.
“There is a lot of difference between junior and senior level hockey. There is a great experience value that senior players bring to the table. It will be great opportunity for me to train along side Sreejesh bhai,” he added.
Karkera joined the national camp on March 14 along with other goalkeepers Vikas Dahiya, Akash Chikte and Sreejesh.
Karkera is a regular member in the junior squad and represented the country at the England Tour, EurAsia Cup 2016 and also accompanied the team for the four-nation tournament in Valencia, Spain last year.
Karkera, however, missed out on the Junior Hockey World in Lucknow last year, where Vikas Dahiya and Krishan Pathak were chosen ahead of him.
With Oltmans eyeing the tournament to test his bench strength ahead of key events later this year, Karkera hopes to get a chance to play at some point of time in the Azlan Shah Cup.
“The coach, Oltmans has told me that I will get a chance to play but depending upon situation in the tournament,” he said at Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre here.
Working under the tutelage of Oltmans is not a new thing for Karkera, who was part of the Uttar Pradesh Wizards franchise in the last two editions of Hockey India League. The Azlan Shah Cup will be held in Ipoh, Malaysia from April 27 to May 6.