Better exposure is the need of the hour

The victorious Kerala team with the trophy.-PICS: ROHIT JAIN PARAS

With better planning and regular matches against other strong Asian teams, India can progress to the top three in the continent. By Kamesh Srinivasan.

There is no doubt that Indian volleyball is in the best of health when compared with the other Olympic team sport in the country. Yet, at No. 30 from among 140-odd ranked countries, India aspires to grow stronger and figure at least among the top three nations in Asia.

Coach G. E. Sreedharan, who has played a significant role in the development of the Indian men’s team over the last few years, wants better exposure for the side to facilitate further growth. “Our players have the height, stamina, strength, agility and the power to jump high consistently. We have the talent, but we need more matches against quality opposition on a regular basis,” said the Dronacharya Award winner during the National Championship in Jaipur recently.

Expressing gratitude for the government support, Sreedharan said that with better planning and regular matches against other strong Asian teams such as Iran (World No. 14) China (15), Japan (19) and Korea (22) Indian volleyball would be able to reach the next level.

Sreedharan was of the view that exposure trips to these countries and matches against even club teams would be of help as the style of play of a country and its clubs was generally the same.

“We had played a series of matches against the Chinese Clubs. Then we went to Nagoya and beat the Chinese national team 3-0,” recalled Sreedharan about the days when he was a player.

In the National Championship, Sreedharan felt, the Tamil Nadu men’s team, with five of its six players in the starting line-up being regulars in the National team, had the edge over the rest, particularly after it had beaten the defending champion, Kerala, in the league phase.

However, when Kerala met Tamil Nadu in the final, Sreedharan said there was nothing much to differentiate between the two teams. He also recalled how it had been a close match between the two teams in the final two years ago in Chennai.

THE RAILWAYS players celebrate after defeating Kerala in the women's final of the Nationals.-

He was proved right, as Kerala, which had defeated Haryana in the semi-finals in five games, asserted its fighting qualities and tamed Tamil Nadu in straight games. Tamil Nadu had shown its class in beating last year’s runner-up Uttarakhand in the semi-finals, but ran out of ideas in the final, as Kerala called the shots through the match.

It was indeed a triumph of spirit for the young Kerala team as it had only a few international players in its ranks when compared to Tamil Nadu. Tom Joseph was, without doubt, a big star and he lived up to his reputation much to the delight of his fans, some of whom were waving his posters in front of the television cameras during the final.

K. S. Ratheesh, Vibin M. George, T. S. Ajesh, P. Rohith, and skipper Y. Manu, along with libero Kiran Philip played their part efficiently, much to the delight of the coach S. T. Harilal, who is confident of his team faring well in the National Games.

In the women’s section, Railways and Kerala were a class apart. Railways, which was virtually the National side, won the title beating the young Kerala team.

FOR THE RECORD/B>

Men’s final: Kerala beat Tamil Nadu 25-22, 25-23, 25-23.

Third place: Uttarakhand beat Haryana 25-18, 25-15, 25-20. Semi-finals: Tamil Nadu beat Uttarakhand 25-21, 25-14, 25-21; Kerala beat Haryana 25-18, 25-21, 20-25, 18-25, 15-10.

Women’s final: Railways beat Kerala 25-17, 25-21, 25-14.

Third place: Andhra Pradesh beat Tamil Nadu 25-19, 25-9, 25-20. Semi-finals: Railways beat Andhra Pradesh 25-14, 25-16, 25-10; Kerala beat Tamil Nadu 25-21, 25-18, 25-22.