On the right track

The victorious Indian team.-MD. YOUSUF

The resounding victory over Pakistan in the five-Test series is a big morale booster for India ahead of the Asian Championship, writes V. V. Subrahmanyam.

The Indian coach G. E. Sridharan’s beaming face said it all. And, he had every reason to be delighted after his boys completed a splendid 4-1 triumph against Pakistan in the Lanco Cup five-Test volleyball series recently.

After India’s victory in the final Test in Hyderabad, Sridharan said the series win should be a big morale booster for the team ahead of the Asian Championship in Jakarta. “This shows that we are in the right mode of preparation,” he remarked. “The most positive facet of this triumph was that we did not panic during crisis.”

For the Pakistan coach, Stefan Dimitrov of Bulgaria, the series was a big disappointment. “The Indians attacked and defended with great skill and consistency throughout the series. Somehow we failed to raise the level of our game in crunch situations,” he summed up.

Dimitrov said that India proved itself to be a superior side and there could be no doubts on that score. But he felt that with a little more luck and application his team could have put up a better fight.

For the Pakistan players, it was mainly a question of gaining experience and exposure under varying conditions, said Dimitrov, an Olympian who has been coaching Pakistan for about five or six months. The Test series enabled him to assess the strengths and weaknesses of his team.

Speaking of the Indian team’s performance, Sridharan was of the view that on occasions its blocking could have been better. But overall he was satisfied with the performance of his boys who, he said, handled the pressures of playing before the home crowd well and lived up to the expectations by ensuring victory by a huge margin.

“We were not always thinking of the result. Instead we wanted to make sure that our combinations and tactics worked well and that we put up a good performance,” Sridharan said.

Even experts and former players in Hyderabad were of the view that the Indian team showed a remarkable level of consistency. Some of them even felt that more such exposure would ensure better results for the Indian players and raise the standard of the game in the country.

Fresh from the silver medal effort in the Commonwealth Championship in Kolkata recently, India seemed determined to prove that its showing there was no flash in the pan. India clinched the first Test at Visakhapatnam 25-16, 23-25, 15-25, 25-18, 15-13, thanks mainly to the wonderful display by G. Pradeep, Sanjay Kumar, Srikanth and Subhey Singh.

Pakistan fought back in the second Test at the same venue with a hard-fought 26-28, 30-28, 25-16, 25-20 win, riding on the brilliance of Irfan Nawaz.

The third Test in Chennai saw the Indians take a 2-1 lead in the series with a 25-21, 25-20, 26-24 win. The all-round game of G. Pradeep Kumar and Sanjay Kumar and a near perfect job by booster K. J. Kapil Dev put Pakistan on the defensive right through. The Indian players seemed to have raised the level of their game by a notch or two. They showed superb understanding throughout the match.

In the fourth Test at Coimbatore, India won a cliff-hanger 25-20, 29-31, 23-25, 25-21, 15-13 and with it the series. After India lost the second and third sets, Sridharan brought in Shelton Moses as a substitute and this smart player rattled the rival defence with an amazing display.

In the fifth and final Test at Hyderabad, the home team was in no mood to relax and came up with a thoroughly professional display to ensure a grand finish to its campaign. It chalked up a resounding 25-19, 25-23, 25-23 victory in front of a surprisingly sparse crowd.

In a welcome gesture, the Andhra Pradesh Government presented Rs. 1 lakh to the winners and Rs. 50,000 to the runner-up. Special cash prizes of Rs. 12,500 each were given to K. J. Kapil Dev (best setter), Srikanth (best attacker), G. Pradeep (best blocker) and Ishfaq Hussain of Pakistan (best libero).