Coping with Corona: Four books a month and biryani on Sundays for PR Sreejesh

PR Sreejesh in action at the 2018 Champions Trophy. Soccrates/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus has brought life to a standstill across the world. The sporting world too, with tournaments cancelled, seasons suspended and athletes bound by the same rules of isolation as the rest of us. ESPN talks to Indian athletes, cooped up in homes or training camps, on their changed routies, with calendars scrambled, competitions on hold and plenty of time on hand.

PR Sreejesh

Goalkeeper, Indian men's hockey team

National training centre, SAI Bengaluru

Has your training been affected in any way?

The team's training routine is unchanged. Right now we are doing acclimatisation sessions daily. Essentially, we are trying to put our bodies through the likely conditions in Tokyo at the time of the Olympics in July. Instead of morning sessions, we now train from 12-3 pm, followed by a second session from 5-7 pm.

If you could watch a match from the past on video while you're stuck at the camp, which one would it be?

It has to be the 2014 Asian Games final against Pakistan which we won 4-2 in the shootout. Goosebumps.

Any new hobbies that you've taken up?

Since we have a lot of time these days and nowhere to go, many of us on the team have started playing volleyball at the SAI center that we're at. I've also picked up reading as a new habit now. I was so hooked to The Da Vinci Code that I jumped out of bed at 2am, and could only go back to sleep after I'd finished the final few chapters. I also loved Ikigai. Now I'm reading 'Good morning Mandela', it's a book that our former goalkeeper coach Dave Staniforth recommended to me when he was with the team four years ago. I've set myself a target of four books a month. So far, I think I'm doing great.

What are you watching these days?

I just finished watching Shooter. I haven't started with anything new yet. Of course I catch up on the odd Malayalam and Tamil movie on streaming platforms once a while.

What about cheat days?

If I've been disciplined through the week, on Sunday I treat myself to mutton biryani. I can have up to one kg of it for a meal.

What's an advantage of being in a situation like this where everything has come to a standstill?

Since the SAI center is under lockdown and we aren't allowed to leave the premises, it's a bit of a confined existence for us now. Usually when we're off after training, sometimes on Wednesday afternoons we would go to a mall. We can't do that anymore. But on the bright side, it's allowed us more time for recovery. On an average, we would end up walking 3-5 kms when we were in a mall, going from floor to floor and just hanging around. Inadvertently, it eats into the reserves that's meant for our body to recover after hard training. Now, our days are strictly divided between training and recovery so that's good.

What's your fitness routine like these days?

It certainly hasn't gotten any easier. Right now it's a lot of intense sessions, or what we call red sessions. The focus is on strengthening. We cover approximately 8-9 kms in each session.

If you could swap lives with any sportsperson for a day, who would it be and why?

Virat Kohli. I'd love to see what his fitness regime is like. He does seem like a hell of a disciplined athlete.

Following the outbreak, what's the most paranoid thing you've done to keep yourself safe?

Before and after training sessions, we sanitize our hands. We also wipe gym equipments with a sanitizer before and after we use them. We've also started sanitising our hands before every meal now! So you could say this virus episode has got us to pick up on good hygiene habits we never practiced earlier.