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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2708

Indian Volleyball Comes Of Age

By Ramu Sharma - Syndicate Features

When Belarus defeated India in one of the earlier pool league matches of the 2009 FIVB Junior World Volleyball Championships at Pune last fortnight, nobody would have given the country a chance of qualifying for the last eight. But the team surprised everybody by ending as the fourth, after champions Brazil, runners up Cuba and Argentina. Incidentally all the three are from the Americas. The Indians' run was amazing as apart from Cuba it was the only team to stretch champions Brazil to five sets.

How did this transformation take place? For those following the game, from whatever sketchy reports that trickle in from the handouts of the Volleyball Federation of India the national teams at the junior and senior levels have always been performing well in the international meets, though these have been few. For instance, the Brazilians were impressed by the Indian junior team at the 2003 championships and they had been keeping a close watch on the present team. And their caution was not without reason because in the semi-final Brazil did get a scare and the coach was planning for a tie-breaker and evolving strategies for that.

The Brazilian coach’s fears were not unfounded. India surprised Belgium and Russia, European powerhouses, before losing to their bogey team of Argentina. Even then they bounced back to reach the semi-final where they lost to the ultimate winners, but not before causing them some anxious moments.

Those who were exposed to the amazing possibilities of volleyball that the team of Kurosawa's cameramen had shown during the Tokyo Olympics, the acrobatics of the Japanese women’s volleyball team, must have felt pleased to see the Indians exhibiting similar athleticism and amazing retrieval powers. They also seem to have adapted to the latest strategies and ploys.

The game is no more one of sheer power but is also of deception and body feints and mind games. It was a sight to see the Indians match the Argentines’ subtle placements and other tricks. It was interesting to watch the Argentines match, for once, the Indians’ drop shots. Such improvisations had all been adapted and lessons well learnt. Finally, as the Brazilians admitted it was Indians’ inexperience that cost them their semi-final match. One could call it their choking at the crucial moment or fatigue after two closely fought matches. At the end it is always the team that holds the nerves that prevails. India will get that with more exposure and confidence.

As usual, the team has thrown up stars, one of whom, Naveen Raja Jacob from Tamil Nadu got the tournament’s ‘best server’ award. The other outstanding performances came from Gurinder Singh, who had been consistent throughout the tournament. He also proved the lucky talisman as whenever he had participated India had reached the last four. Mandeep Singh and Navjit Singh also stood out in a team where everybody performed well.

Some interesting factors emerged from the tourney. The average height of the Indians is 6 feet 5 inches. Though height is no longer a factor – the Argentines were of shorter stature – it is heartening to see the Indians' towering ‘presence’ on the court. The other is the figuring of more players from Punjab in the team. Once Punjab dominated the game but for some time now their presence had been scarce. In fact players from two or three states comprised the team, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and Punjab. One wonders what has happened to states like Andhra Pradesh and Kerala that had given stalwarts like Jimmy George, Basith and Abdul Rahman to the national team.

The game also seems to be unevenly spread across the country. Now major tournaments are held mostly in Hyderabad or Vijayawada. One hardly finds the game being played even in Delhi which at one time was a major centre.

It is time that the game is made more popular across the country and more teams are given international exposure. More modern tactics need to be adopted -along with the ubiquitous computers and and better courts made and the game taken to schools and colleges. There is whole mine of talent to be tapped out there.

- Asian Tribune -

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