India rides on ‘tsunami’ of morale boost, reaches volleyball top 6 round in Asian Games 2023

Enjoying the high of beating South Korea in the group stage, India eclipsed another higher-ranked team, Chinese Taipei, in the top 12 cross stage, to stay in contention for a medal.

Published : Sep 22, 2023 18:23 IST , SHAOXING - 4 MINS READ

According to the Indian men’s volleyball team head coach Jaideep Sarkar, despite all the preparations coming into the Asian Games, all they needed to instill belief in themselves was a big win. And the team got that with its monumental victory over South Korea, ranked 46 places above it and last edition’s silver medallist. The win enabled India to ride a ‘tsunami of morale boost’ to a straight set 25-22, 25-22, 25-21 victory over 2018 Asian Games’ bronze medallist Chinese Taipei here at the China Textile City Sports Centre Gymnasium on Friday.  

“When that tsunami comes, logic and order go out of the window. If your mental strength is high, then why fear?” Jaideep told  Sportstar

READ | India tames Korea for thrilling 5-set win in Asian Games volleyball 

The coach and the players refuse to be daunted by its next opponent, the Asian No. 1 Japan, and are confident of pulling off another upset and securing a place in the semifinals. 

India was slow off the blocks in the opening set; struggling to deal with Taipei’s service, serving errors and misplacing its cross-court shots. “Teams come in thinking it’s easy to break India in the service. If we serve easy, then they will return the pass and it will turn into a speed game. We can’t play that speed game,” said setter Appavu Muthusamy. 

At 19-21, it was Muthusamy, who fired in the fast serves that helped India win four successive points to take the lead. At 21-21, Muthusamy’s service was deemed out of bounds but a convincing review from the Indian team showed that the ball kissed the baseline on the ball tracker. With an Ashwal Rai block at the net, India claimed the first set, recovering from 15-20 to win the last 10 of the 12 points. 

Jaideep’s tactics have also revolved around not letting Korea and Taipei dictate the play and blocking firmly at the net. “If a team likes to play fast, then we can’t let them play fast. All these Asian teams like Japan, Korea and Taipei play fast. They don’t play high balls; they play short balls and use their full body weight in shots. From the net height, their balls don’t go above one foot. So, you don’t need to jump high [to block], you just need to keep your hand above the net.  

“If you don’t keep your hand, then it becomes ‘Boom. Boom’. If we get our hands right, then we can dead block it.  Aur woh humare saath taal mil kar slow khelne lage, then hum change karenge strategy (And if they slow things down to our tune, then we will change the strategy again),” explained Jaideep. 

Amit, who struggled with his cross-court shots in the opening set, scored big in the second set with seven points, by opting for placement instead of power. India had its noses in front for much of the set before Taipei’s three-point swing levelled the scores at 17-17, leading to Jaideep calling for a time out. After the time out, Amit came with two points in attack and a block to give his side the ascendancy before closing out the set at 25-22 with another attacking point. 

In the third set, India’s poor service, which cost it the fourth set against Korea, meant it squandered a six-point lead at 12-6, allowing Taipei to close them down at 15-15. “If we had lost that set, then it would have definitely been a five-set game,” said Muthusamy. But Ashwal got a big service point which Muthusamy called a ‘do-or-die’ serve, setting India on its way to another memorable win. 

Japan seems like an improbable obstacle to overcome but this Indian team has no fear of failure. “We are in the top six. We now have a chance if we play well. If we win, we go into the top four, if we lose we are still in the top six. There’s nothing to lose,” said Muthusamy. 

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