Team work at its best

Celebration time… the victorious Chennai Spikers team with the trophy.-K. RAMESH BABU

What separated Chennai Spikers from the rest was its ability to rise to the occasion. Overcoming a dismal start in the first leg in Bangalore, the Chennai outfit meant business in the next three legs to log 35 points and bag the top honours. V. V. Subrahmanyam reports.

The inaugural edition of the Indian Volley League provided the players a huge opportunity to showcase their skills in demanding conditions. The four-leg tournament spread over four weeks and played at four different venues meant the players had to be in top physical condition besides showing consistency. Chennai Spikers proved that it had all these qualities as it emerged a clear winner with a classy performance.

Overcoming a dismal start in the first leg in Bangalore, Chennai Spikers meant business in the next three legs (in Chennai, Yanam and Hyderabad) to log 35 points and bag the top honours.

By all means, it was a thoroughly professional performance from Chennai Spikers which clearly depended on its season campaigner and international K. J. Kapil Dev. However, what separated Chennai Spikers from the rest was its ability to rise to the occasion.

For instance, in the crucial final leg (Hyderabad), Chennai put behind its disappointing loss to Yanam Tigers in the first round to win the next four in style. The fact that it reserved its best for the strongest challenger in the league, Hyderabad Chargers, was also a fair reflection of the planning that had gone into Chennai Spikers' game. The support staff headed by chief coach A. Venkatesan had done a good job.

The beauty of Chennai Spikers' game was the way some of its key players swapped roles on court without actually disturbing the balance of the team. This was one major asset that helped the team to repeatedly wriggle out of crisis. S. Prabhakaran and Mandeep Singh were so good at the net that big players like Ragesh always had the liberty to pound the rival defence with some telling smashes. It was team work at its best.

The extent of Chennai Spikers' planning can be gauged from the manner in which it neutralised the huge advantage of Hyderabad Chargers in the final, must-win round-robin match that decided the eventual champion. Chennai Spikers recorded a 25-19, 21-25, 25-20, 25-17 win despite the fact that Hyderabad Chargers had some big guns like Lavmeet Katariya, Sube Singh and V. R. Sanoj who had the ability to rattle the best of defences.

In a very clever move, Chennai Spikers changed the pace of the game once Chargers levelled the set scores (1-1). As a result, the Hyderabad team was clueless.

The Chennai outfit's preference for drops and intelligent net-game made all the difference. Chennai Spikers' captain Nadarajan was clinical in his job at the net, always showing enterprise to score important points. And this was largely possible because of the splendid showing by setter Kapil Dev.

“Honestly, he is the hero of Chennai Spikers' win against Chargers. We were just focussing on making the first-pass precise and hoping to do well in receiving the big serves. Once we started getting them right, we knew Chargers would be in trouble,” explained Chennai Spikers coach A. Venkatesan later.

On the offensive …P. Rohit of Chennai Spikers springs up for a smash against Maratha Warriors in the final leg in Hyderabad.-K. RAMESH BABU

Unfortunately for the Chargers, it was exactly the opposite as its first-pass was off target and Sube Singh was out of sorts. The exception, though, was libero Vinod Negi — he was outstanding.

But the fact that someone like even the normally effective Gurinder Singh was reduced to a mute spectator was a tribute to Chennai Spikers' successful strategy in controlling the pace of the game.

That just two points separated the winner from the loser was also a fair indication of the intensity of the competition.

The other team that really impressed in the final leg was Yanam Tigers which recorded three straight wins but lost the crucial fourth round to Hyderabad Chargers 20-25, 22-25, 25-22, 19-25. The lanky central-blocker Y. Subba Rao was outstanding for the Tigers right through the final leg. He was a pillar of strength with his sense of timing and athleticism. The combine of V. John Christopher and Tom Joseph to played consistently well. Tigers' libero L. Sakthi Kumar was one of the star performers of the tournament.

The most disappointing team in the final leg was Maratha Warriors, the winner of the first leg in Bangalore. It won only the last match against Kerala Killers after losing four in a row. The team was clearly weakened by the absence of the injured Gurchand Singh and Omvir Mann.

The winner took home a prize money of Rs. 10 lakh, while the second-placed team won Rs. 5 lakh. The third-placed team earned Rs. 3 lakh.


1. Chennai Spikers 35 points; 2. Hyderabad Chargers 33; 3. Yanam Tigers 31; 4. Karnataka Bulls 29; 5. Maratha Warriors 27; 6. Kerala Killers 25.

SPECIAL PRIZES (Rs. 50,000 each)

Best Attacker: Prabakaran (Chennai Spikers); Best Universal: Gurinder Singh (Hyderabad Chargers); Best Blocker: Navjit Singh (Chennai Spikers); Best Setter: K. J. Kapil Dev (Chennai Spikers); Best Libero: Vinod Negi (Hyderabad Chargers); Best Server: Sanjay Kumar (Karnataka Bulls).

Most Valuable Player (Rs. 1 lakh): Gurinder Singh (Hyderabad Chargers).


The Indian Volley League's primary objective is to provide a platform for the young talent to rub shoulders with the seasoned players who have a rich experience of representing the country in international events.

“We are definitely pleased that this concept has become a big success despite the fact that we did not get a title-sponsor. But, this again is understandable since the IVL is a new-born baby looking for care and attention,” said V. Ravikanth Reddy, the Chairman of the IVL.

“Initially we were a bit circumspect. But as the event progressed, we were confident of its success. For the simple reason, volleyball is still a spectator-friendly sport in India,” asserted the Arjuna Award winner.

“I am aware of some of the problems that the players faced like the scheduling of the four legs with not much time in between for recovery. The next time, we will address this issue; we will spread it (the IVL) over two months and it will be held in October-November,” the former India captain said.

“Let me remind you that the chief co-ordinator is G. E. Sridharan, who should know better than anyone else what the players need. He is clearly one of the architects of the IVL success story along with Dronacharya Award winners Ramana Rao and Shyam Sunder,” he said.

Reflecting on the possible changes in the IVL in the next edition, Ravikanth said two more teams would enter the fray. “We would also try our best to see that each team picked two foreign players,” he added.

Reacting to criticism that the players were not paid adequately, Ravikanth pointed to the huge financial burden that the organisers had to shoulder in getting the IVL started. “Well, having played at the highest level, I am not so naïve to ignore the basic needs of the players at this level. We will definitely address this crucial issue in the next edition. I hope the players understand our genuine concern,” Ravikanth explained.

“Not confining the IVL to the metros is another issue that will be reviewed seriously. But again, all these things depend on what the franchise owners decide,” he added.

Ravikanth said that he is grateful to the Volleyball Federation of India president Sivanthi Adityan and secretary-general K. Murugan for their “wonderful support” right through.