The sporting landscape in India has changed dramatically in the last decade with the introduction of leagues for almost every sporting discipline. From the most followed sport to the sport indigenous to the country, athletes now have a platform to showcase their talent, earn their living and rub shoulders with the best athletes from around the world to improve and compete at the highest level.
Pro Volleyball League is the latest to join the ecosystem of such leagues, with a model similar to the ones in its cricket, kabaddi, football, badminton, and wrestling counterparts. The league, which promises to bring together many Indian and prominent overseas players together, has prioritised making it supporter-friendly too, with only one match scheduled per day. Moreover, the league will be played over a relatively short duration of three weeks.
Ahmedabad Defenders, Black Hawks Hyderabad, Calicut Heroes, Chennai Spartans, Kochi Blue Spikers, and U Mumba Volley are the six teams with twelve players each (including an Indian icon player and two under-21 players).
The players were picked from an auction pool of 145. Five of the six teams have named an Indian player as their captain, with Carson Clark’s appointment as the captain of Black Hawks Hyderabad being the exception.
Speaking at the season launch event on Friday, Joy Bhattacharjya, CEO, Pro Volleyball League, said, “We are just one day away from the start of the league. A lot of hard work and planning has gone in the journey building up to the first day of the league. I am hopeful that the teams will put up a great show for the fans of the sport.”
The league follows a round-robin format, with the teams playing each other twice and the top four teams at the end of the league stage qualifying for the semifinals.
The matches will be in the usual, best-of-five-sets format. The round-robin matches will, however, be played to 15 points per set, with the first team to reach 15 points winning the set. The semifinals and final will be played to 25 points.
Super serve and super point are the two elements introduced to make the matches all the more exciting. A super serve , on one hand, gives the serving team two points for every ace it serves, while a super point is similar to the trump match concept in the Premier Badminton League. Every team will have one super point option for every set. If the team which opts for a super point wins the point, it gains two points; losing that point will give the opposition team two points. The super point must, however, be called before a team has reached 11 points.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Ranjit Singh (Ahmedabad Defenders)
Ranjit plays as a setter in the Indian volleyball team and is the former captain of the side. He was bought for Rs 13 lakh by the Ahmedabad franchise at the auction, making him the costliest player in the league. He will captain Ahmedabad Defenders in the inaugural edition of the league.
Mohan Ukkrapandian (Kochi Blue Spikers)
Mohan also plays as the setter in India national volleyball team and is the captain of Kochi Blue Spikers, which bought him for Rs 6.5 lakh at the auction. The 29-year-old Mohan started out as a blocker when he began playing volleyball before his college volleyball coach changed his position, which he says he enjoys playing in.
David Lee (Kochi Blue Spikers)
David is a three-time Olympian with the USA men’s national team, as a part of which he won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and was the fifth pick at the auction. Standing at 6ft 8in, he plays as a middle blocker and is currently in the 15th year of his professional career.
Carson Clark (Black Hawks Hyderabad)
Clark plays as a spiker in the USA national team and will lead Black Hawks Hyderabad, which is the youngest team in the league. He was a gold-medallist with the USA team at the 2015 World Championship.
Venues and season schedule
Kochi (Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium) and Chennai (Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium) are the two centres where the matches will be played. Kochi will host 12 matches from February 2 to 13 before the league moves to Chennai for three league matches, two semifinals and the final on February 22. All matches will start at 7pm.
Where to watch
Pro Volleyball League matches will be aired on the Sony Six and Sony Ten 3 channels, with SonyLiv providing the live stream.
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