Indian Oil hockey team goalkeeper Pankaj Rajak is riding high after two memorable shooutout performances in the 57th Gooncha Senior Nehru Hockey Tournament at the South-Central Railway Sports Complex in Hyderabad. The 22-year-old Indian Oil played a big part in Indian Oil edging out Indian Navy 4-2 in a shootout in the semifinals, effecting two crucial saves and this was after Indian Oil clawed their was back after trailing 0-2 to level the issue to push the contest into a shootout. Pankaj was at his best in the final shootout against Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) denying the likes of Ajmer Singh and Ajay Yadav from scoring, helping his side win its first domestic hockey crown this season. “It’s a great feeling to contribute to the team’s cause. The shootouts are an opportunity for goalkeepers to become a hero and I’m happy with my performance,” says Pankaj in a chat with Hockey Passion.
The Hazaribagh lad, who is posted at Odisha with his employers, makes a mention of the fighting spirit of the oilmen. “The way we rebounded after trailing 0-2 in regulation time and subsequently winning the shootout against Indian Navy speaks volumes of our tenacity,” he quips.
Pankaj, who has been playing for Indian Oil since 2018, throws light on how the role of hockey goalkeepers has evolved from the time shootout replaced the traditional way of converting penalty strokes. “Look, it used to be all about judgment when goalkeepers have to stop a stroke but now judgement along with fitness and stamina have become more important,” he says.