Prime Volleyball League: Calicut Heroes’ victory dance

In the third season of the Prime Volleyball League, the team from Kerala emerged victorious, securing their debut title.

Published : Mar 23, 2024 16:17 IST , CHENNAI - 4 MINS READ

Calicut Heroes celebrate after winning the Prime Volleyball League in Chennai.
Calicut Heroes celebrate after winning the Prime Volleyball League in Chennai. | Photo Credit: R RAGU

Calicut Heroes celebrate after winning the Prime Volleyball League in Chennai. | Photo Credit: R RAGU

The Prime Volleyball League (PVL) crowned its third champion in three seasons. Calicut Heroes dominated the league, winning both the regular season and the Super 5s before defeating the Delhi Toofans in the final.

For the PVL itself, the Toofans’ presence in the final validated the decision to expand the league and highlighted the success of the model.

Previously, Baseline Ventures, the promoters of PVL, ran a short-lived Pro Volleyball League under the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI). However, the VFI abruptly terminated the contract, leading to a legal battle. The Madras High Court ruled in favour of Baseline, awarding them compensation. 

Then, VFI attempted to launch a competing league that ultimately fizzled out.

Baseline has since established independent communication channels with the international governing body, Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), and launched the rebranded PVL, allowing them to host the Club World Championships in India last year. This sequence of events clearly demonstrates PVL’s dominance in Indian volleyball.

The players have emerged as the biggest winners at the end of this power struggle between PVL and VFI. Previously caught in the crossfire, they were even pressured to choose between playing in the league and representing India. Thankfully, those days are over.

Lifeline for Indian volleyball

The significance of the PVL is amplified by the current dysfunctional state of the VFI. With elections stalled and an ad-hoc committee appointed by the Indian Olympic Committee at the helm, it became a lifeline for keeping volleyball alive in the country.

PVL’s 48-match, 36-day third season culminated in a thrilling victory for Calicut Heroes. The team, hailing from Kerala — India’s volleyball hub — finally clinched the championship after two previous semifinal heartbreaks. Its success can be attributed to a formula: combining raw Indian talent with the strategic finesse of European technique.

The coaching duo of Kishore Kumar and Shailen Ramdoo were instrumental in crafting a championship team. Kumar, seeking to elevate his players’ skills, brought on Ramdoo, his former FIVB coaching instructor. The results were undeniable — the Heroes dominated, winning nine out of thirteen matches.

Leading the charge was Jerome Vinith, the team’s captain and star player. Overlooked for the 2023 Asian Games despite consistent performances, Vinith delivered a match-winning performance in the final, earning both Player of the Match and Most Valuable Player of the Season awards. This victory was a form of redemption for the 31-year-old.

“We (Indian players) are just turning professional with PVL and we need to capitalise on this. The league is playing a crucial part in increasing the talent pool for the national setup,” Vinith tells  Sportstar.

Super 5 heats up the competition

The addition of a ninth team necessitated a format change. Previously, a simple round-robin determined the semifinalists. This season, a new Super 5 stage saw the top five teams battle it out. The winner secured a direct spot in the finals, while the others fought for the remaining slot.

This format intensified the competition, evident in the final Super 5 standings. All five teams had the same number of wins, separated only by set differences. The increased number of matches also allowed players to build team chemistry.

The Super 5 added excitement, offering teams second chances and keeping fans on the edge of their seats. International players and coaches brought fresh perspectives, noticeably improving the overall gameplay. Luiz Felippe Perotto, the Heroes’ Brazilian hitter, highlighted the difference in styles.

“Indian players are very aggressive, they tend to attack more and are very strong on serves and spikes. On the other hand, European style leans more towards technical skills like receiving and blocking,” he explains to  Sportstar.

Challenges and looking ahead

Despite the season’s success, challenges remain. Compared to international leagues, the PVL’s shorter season limits player development. Additionally, the tight schedule increases injury risks, as seen towards the business end of the tournament.

Perotto also pointed out challenges for foreign players: “Top leagues in Europe run for ten months, allowing time for development and team chemistry. In the PVL, it’s a two-month sprint. We have to hit the ground running from day one.”

However, Saqlain Tariq, captain of Delhi Toofans, emphasised the importance of youth development. “The league allows youngsters to shine in a professional environment, something that was missing from Indian volleyball before,” he tells  Sportstar.

This season saw Indian talents like S. Santhosh, K. Anand, Chirag Yadav, Shikhar Singh and Mukesh Kumar flourish alongside seasoned players like Vinith. Notably, seven of the top ten scorers this season were Indians.

On the world stage

The Heroes’ victory grants them a direct entry into the Volleyball Club World Championship, representing India, the host nation.

In 2023, Bengaluru hosted the edition in which Ahmedabad Defenders made history by becoming the first Indian team to compete in the tournament. Following suit, Chennai will stage this year’s edition, as announced by Joy Bhattacharjya, CEO of Prime Volleyball League.

As PVL surpasses its 100-match milestone and crowns a new champion in its third season (featuring over a hundred players from 16 nations across nine teams), the Indian volleyball scene is progressing towards a brighter future.

PVL Records-
Top Scorer: Jerome Vinith (Calicut Heroes) - 161 points
Top Attacker: Jerome Vinith (Calicut Heroes) - 150 points
Top Blocker: Daniel Aponza {Colombia} (Delhi Toofans) - 26 blocks, 37 rebounds
Top server: TR Sethu (Bengaluru Torpedoes) - 23 points
Top Digger: K. Anand (Delhi Toofans) - 77 digs
Top Setter: Mohan Ukkrapandian (Calicut Heroes) - 123 successful
Top Receiver: TR Sethu (Bengaluru Torpedoes) - 89 successful
PVL Awards List-
Player of the Match:
Jerome Vinith (Calicut Heroes)
GameChanger of the Match:
Luiz Perotto (Calicut Heroes)
Best Spiker of the Season:
Jerome Vinith (Calicut Heroes)
Emerging Player of the Season:
Chirag Yadav (Calicut Heroes)
Best Blocker
Daniel Aponza (Delhi Toofans)
Most Innovative Setter:
Mohan Ukkrapandian (Calicut Heroes)
Best Libero:
Anand K (Delhi Toofans)
Coach of the Season:
Manoj Nair (Delhi Toofans)
Fairplay Award:
Bengaluru Torpedoes
Most Valuable Player:
Jerome Vinith

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