The script couldn’t have been any better.
At his hometown, in front of a crowd of close to 15,000 that included his family and friends, Vibin M. George came up with a ferocious smash that made Kerala retain the title. It was his last match for the state.
And it was at the very venue where it had all begun for him, 17 years ago. He had watched there the 2001 National championship, which inspired him to take up the sport.
“Yes, everything went right for me; I was so happy that Kerala won and I could score the final point,” Vibin told Sportstar . “It was important that we won that fourth set against Railways, as the deciding set could be too unpredictable.”
He said he had decided some time ago that the Kozhikode edition would be his last National championship for Kerala. “I didn't announce it in advance because I didn't want to put any pressure on the team and myself,” said the 33-year-old.
“I felt it was time for some youngster to take my place.”
He is glad that somebody like C. Ajith Lal has emerged at the right time for Kerala. “He is a brilliant player," he said. "He was outstanding in this tournament.”
He also stressed the contributions made by N. Jibin and C.K. Ratheesh, who played the less glamorous roles of setter and libero, respectively. “And of course, C. Jerome Vinith, P. Rohith, G. Akhin and A. Muthusamy too played well throughout,” he said. "We received excellent support from our coach K. Abdul Nazeer and assistant coach E.K. Kishore Kumar."
He said he was fortunate to be part of some strong Kerala sides over the last 13 years. Captaining India at the Rashid memorial volleyball tournament in Dubai in 2010 is one of his most cherished memories from the volleyball court.
"We had won the bronze there," Vibin said. "I also enjoyed playing for the country in events like the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, SAF Games and Central Asian Games."
He has indeed done rather well who began playing only at the age of 17. "Since I was tall, my friends from my village, Thottumukam, suggested that I could join SAI centre, from where coach T.A. Augustine turned me into an attacker from setter," Vibin recalled. "Joining the BPCL team, where I could play alone with likes of Tom Joseph, whom I admired, Ratheesh and Kishore Kumar, also helped my growth as a player."
He will continue to play for BPCL. “I also hope to play in the proposed Indian Volleyball League," he said. "India and Kerala badly need such a league. It is disappointing to note that the sport doesn't have enough takers among kids in Kerala now."