Spectators have their fill

The triumphant BPCL team.-

BPCL men and Central Railways women were richer by a lakh each for coming up trumps in the Nellore round. A. Joseph Antony reports.

The setting for the national volleyball league (preliminary round I) was scenic. Whizzing past the A. C. Subba Reddy Sports Complex in Nellore were trains tooting their horns every now and then.

The three temporary stands skirting the flood-lit court were almost packed to capacity, what with matches scheduled only in the evenings, kicking off each day at 5 p.m. The audience was appreciative too, applauding quality fare from the players, about five of whom hailed from the same district.

Almost every team had its share of internationals, who kept the spectators spellbound with their skills.

The emphasis on attack was all too visible. Only that ball control wasn’t really at its prime. As high as 20 per cent of the serves by all the assembled sides strayed, either going long because of too much power, or past the sidelines, the angle a shade too acute, while others simply sank into the net for want of pace or height. Since the court was hemmed in on all sides, the nearly non-existent breeze couldn’t have affected ball movement substantially.

Defending champion Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Kochi, remained unconquered right through the week-long league, although the last fixture, virtually a final against Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), Chennai, saw it stage a comeback from being two sets down.

Steep spiking by Tom Joseph, whose reach could stretch as high as 360 cm, proved a nightmare for rivals but a sheer delight for the spectators.

The Kochi side’s ability to raise the bar when the need arose seemed to be its biggest strength. Boosting by B. Anil seemed just right for the blistering smashing by R. Rajeev, skipper E. K. Kishore Kumar and Vibin M. George. The last-named proved quite a handful for those receiving, for his jump serve packed power to send opponents reeling backwards.

The victorious Central Railway team.-

The victorious

In addition to the above-mentioned sides, Indian Navy, Kochi, also advanced to the final leg at Bargur, Tamil Nadu. The young and talented side led by Joseph Kalloor was a finely balanced squad, be it in blocking, spiking or receiving serve. Kalloor combined well with Manu Babu and Rajil Mathew in intercepting the opponent’s attack, while Shijas Mohammed and Boby Xavier pounded the rival half repeatedly.

Siju Joseph’s serves curled in flight, leaving those receiving in a suspense as to its path. On two occasions, he spectacularly scooped up a couple of low retrieves which enthralled the cheering onlookers.

IOB seemed an energetic bunch, thanks to the splendid setting by Ukkara Pandiyan which Jinson Varghese, K. Karthikeyan and P. Sivabalan capitalised on.

The Chennai team would have sorely missed the expertise of international Joby Joseph, who is undergoing rehabilitation for a shoulder injury, especially in the last engagement. ONGC, Dehradun, was a let-down, the 209 cm tall Y. Subba Rao showing only sparks of his ability.

The start of the event was hardly auspicious with an AP Minister and a Union Minister of State delaying the inauguration by two and a half hours due to their late arrival. Ironically, the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI)-appointed Control Committee, through the daily bulletin, warned VVR Club of Hyderabad for its late arrival! Even after this, the action on the penultimate day got under way 40 minutes late.

In contrast, the efficiency of K. S. Rajashekar, the VFI’s website, bulletin and computer analyst, stood out. When there were ties for group toppers, he’d calculate score quotients in a jiffy to identify the winner. At other times, he’d update the VFI website minutes after the scores came in.

The Bangalore-based VFI coach and referee, a Sports Authority of India topper in volleyball coaching in 2001, holds a Federation International de Volleyball (FIVB) certificate in Volleyball Information System (VIS) and is learning French to pursue higher FIVB qualifications in Switzerland.

The Sports Management diploma that Rajashekar obtained from Alagappa University has given him proficiency in human resources, material, finance and performance management, as evidenced from his functioning here.

Far from the spotlight, away from the dais and places of importance but excelling as a foot soldier in the cause of the sport was M.S. Raveendra, a Physical Education Director with V.R. College. He accomplished every task assigned to him, without once losing his cool.

BPCL men and Central Railways women were richer by a lakh each for coming up trumps in the Nellore round.

The Mumbai-based railway side was spurred upwards, largely through the boosting by skipper and Indian captain Vaishali Phadtare, backed up forcefully by Priyanka Bora, Hemlatha Ursal and Yogita Kitkule and libero Priyanka Khedkar, who shored up the defence considerably.