Around five or six year ago, when I was in my mid-20s, I was obsessed with Harley Davidson. I couldn’t get the bike, so I got my goalkeeping helmet designed in that style. These days, I use a simple white helmet, which reflects my current state of mind – calm.
Helmet is one of the most important part of my kit because when the ball comes to your face, the natural instinct is to close the eyes. You need to have the confidence to keep the eyes open till the ball hits the helmet, and make the save before that happens. For that, you need equipment that you can rely on.
When I played hockey in school, a run-down cricket helmet was given to us. I purchased my first full kit only in 2004, when I was at my third or fourth junior national camp. It was one of the leading domestic brands and had everything–kicker to helmet. Since then, I have kept changing the design of the helmets, but its shape has always remained the same.
Shape is very important. The helmet often gets displaced when you dive or get hit and every time, you need to get it back to the normal position without using hands. That is usually done by jerking of the head and neck, so if you change the shape constantly, you’ll never get that bit right. Weight is universal, so I am not very worried about that.
For us goalkeepers, equipment is our second skin. I never use new stuff directly at a tournament. And once a tournament begins, I never change the settings of my equipment—be it the way I grip the stick, or the tightness of the pads. Of course, if there’s any emergency, you have to improvise but I won’t willingly change anything.
For safety, I keep on changing the equipment every few years but one thing that has stayed with me for more than a decade is my abdomen guard – it’s the first thing I think of when I kit-up. At the 2005 junior World Cup camp in Hyderabad, Adrian D’Souza gave me an extra, unused guard he had. I have been using that ever since.
I wear two abdomen guards. The modern guards have an added patch, which protect the lower abdomen area. This modification was introduced because of minor design changes in the goalkeeping pads. To make the movement of legs smooth, they left gaps so to cover those regions, the design of abdomen guards was changed.
Still, I rely a lot on the one Adrian gave me. It’s an old one but fortunately, strong one and keeps me mentally relaxed during matches. I wonder if Adrian remembers this story!
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