`Winningest' coach

THE India Youth team's coach for the World championship, G. E. Sridharan (pix, right) of Sports Authority of India, has become the `winningest' coach in the country. After steering the Indian boys to a fantastic gold medal victory in the Asian Youth championship in Visakhapatnam, beating Iran, his team went on to make waves in the eighth World Youth (boys) championship in Suphanburi (Thailand), beating the traditionally strong teams such as Brazil, Poland and the Czech Republic. No other Indian coach could do it before.

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G. E. Sridharan has played over 200 international matches as a setter. He was also a professional and took part in the Italian league along with the legendary Jimmy George. He was undoubtedly the best setter India ever had for three decades. But even he could not earn the `World Best Setter' award, which Tamil Nadu's Kamaraj, who works for ONGC, Dehradun, won in the eighth World Youth championship. The Indian coach advised Kamaraj to keep it as a great treasure because it was such a great honour and one cannot achieve it every time at that level.

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What is the secret of G. E. Sridharan's success? Two things. He played as a professional in Italy. So he knows how the Europeans and South Americans play their game. This is important for any coach who takes the team to the World championship. Another Indian coach, who almost took the Indian junior team to great heights was Shyamsundar Rao. In 1995 at Johar Bahru (Malaysia) the juniors stretched Russia 1-3 and almost toppled Poland before losing 2-3. That was a laudable achievement because the separating line between juniors and the seniors is very thin. Both Sridharan and Shyamsundar moulded the most dedicated teams.

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R. Kamaraj of India was adjudged the `Best Setter' in the World Youth volleyball championship. — Pic. R. V. MOORTHY-

Only those coaches, who have played at a higher level and who can devote most of their time to the team should be preferred by the Volleyball Federation of India in future. A panel must be set up and only those coaches, who have produced good players and better results in the domestic competitions, must be considered for the panel. Without such a background it is impossible for any trainer to achieve better results at international level. GES has been on VFI's `Talent Hunt' programme for the last 13 years and this is the reason for his success.

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There were drug tests for the teams that reached the semi-finals and the final. So India had to undergo tests after its semi-final against Iran and final against Brazil. For the random test, the player who was picked up was India's main spiker Srikanth on both the days. His urine quantity was less and he was detained for long. So the team had to wait for more than one hour after the matches to take him back to the hotel on both occasions.

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Can a 19 or a 20-year-old boy grow up to 210 cm? Yes, if he is a Russian. Alexander Volkov was the tallest man in the tournament and Russia's average height was 201 cm. Australia's main spiker Zane Christensen stood at 208 cm and the Netherlands' Vlam Tije at 207 cm. Their growth is amazing and it is said that it is difficult to hide their age in Europe where all the new-born children get identity cards. Every two years they have to renew them by affixing the latest photographs. But for teams from other regions one had to go by the age mentioned in their passports.

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As the Indian team surged ahead, the VFI President B. Sivanthi Adityan, who was attending an emergency meeting of FIVB at Lausanne, and the Secretary K. Murugan wanted to be at Suphanburi to witness the action in the final. But Murugan, who injured his leg during his visit to the U.S., had to undergo an operation on his knee. So he could not make it and Adityan reached Chennai late to fly to Bangkok. However, Adityan was in constant touch with the chief coach G. E. Sridharan and other officials, conveying his happiness over the good show of the team. However, a delegation from Andhra, comprising a Minister, MP and MLA, along with Kothandaramiah, an AP official, landed in Suphanburi for the semi-final. When India beat Iran in that match the Minister presented $500 to the team.