G.E. Sridharan, the current national coach, views the forthcoming Pro Volleyball League as the take-off point for India to regain its prominence at the Asian level.
Accompanying the women’s squad as the chief coach, Sridharan got a first-hand view of the competition standards at the 2018 Asian Games. He observed: “Iran men performed very well at the Asian Games, competition came from China, Japan. In the women’s section, China, Japan and Thailand were impressive.”
The Volleyball Federation of India was placed under suspension from December 2016 to May 2018 by the world governing body, FIVB, over internal issues. He attributed India’s Asian Games performance to the lack of international exposure because of the ban.
“Indian performances dipped because for two years, our teams did not play against international sides. Other nations progressed and we need to catch up in blocking, spiking and serving,” Sridharan, a member of the bronze-winning Indian men’s team at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul, said.
“Indians have tried to get contracts in Qatar and Lebanon. Once the PVL starts, foreigners from USA, Europe and Latin America playing here will recommend local team-mates to clubs back home. Based on tips from own players and watching the league on television, clubs may be interested in the best Indians from PVL.”
India was denied entry into international events during the period of isolation and with no performances of note, players lost out on contracts in foreign leagues.
Sridharan, a Dronacharya and Arjuna awardee, said the PVL will help India internationals land contracts with bigger clubs in the Gulf region due to league exposure.
“Indians have tried to get contracts in Qatar and Lebanon. Once the PVL starts, foreigners from USA, Europe and Latin America playing here will recommend local team-mates to clubs back home. Based on tips from own players and watching the league on television, clubs may be interested in the best Indians from PVL. Indian men in each and every position, be it blocker or spiker, will face competition and only those capable will get a chance in the first team. The league will also help the national team prepare for the Asian Senior and Asian U-23 Championships, ” the 64-year-old, who has played as a pro in Italy League for four seasons, said.
Indian men’s volleyball has dipped since the Seoul Asian Games in 1986 where India, led by the Jimmy George, clinched a bronze. Sridharan points to foreign tours as the major factor. “We played in China for a month, played numerous practice games in Japan before the Seoul Asian Games. We defeated Japan to return with a bronze, raising our level when it came to the medal match. Each player individually was at the top of his game.”
He felt that playing with and against international players from abroad will help the seniors and U-21 internationals fine-tune their skills. “The current batch of Indians have good leaping ability, technique in blocking and spiking. The problem was shortage of exposure in Asia. I have been told about Americans and Brazilians showing interest in coming to India. The league will bridge that gap,” he said.
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