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Birendra Lakra: Totally unexpected (4/2/2015)
--Tazeen Qureshy
Last year, while P.R. Sreejesh stood tall as the custodian of India’s goalpost, thwarting the opposition attempts to score, 26-year old defender Birendra Lakra contributed equally, ensuring the ball was cleared from the Indian ‘D’, without any foul.

Sreejesh was in full form last year, his performance in the final of the Incheon Asian Games against Pakistan, resulted in India clinching the title. So, when the Hockey India Annual Awards was held last week in New Delhi, many including Lakra himself expected Sreejesh to win the ‘Player of the Year’ title.

undefined But, instead, it was Birendra Lakra, who walked away with the player of the year award and a prize money of Rs 25 lakh.

“Totally unexpected. It came as a surprise for me. Of course, I thought Sreejesh would be the player of the year, given the way he had played last year,” said Lakra, ahead of the team’s departure to Malaysia for the Azlan Shah Cup.

Praising the concept of Annual Hockey Awards that was introduced this year, Lakra said it would increase competition and help in overall development of the team.

“Since an annual award has been instituted, so now every player will try to win it. This will improve the individual player’s performance, which in turn, would enhance the performance of the team.”

However, for Lakra, the awards are already a thing of the past for now, and he is gearing up for the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia now.

“It is just days to go before the Azlan Shah Cup starts. This time we have a full-strength squad and naturally, we will target to finish on a high note,” he signed off.

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