Paul Lotman is on his second visit to India. The first was for the World junior volleyball championship in Visakhapatnam, way back in 2005.

Fourteen years on, he is here to play in the inaugural edition of the Pro Volley League, which gets underway in Kochi on Saturday.

Out of the blue

“The invitation came out of the blue, but I am glad that I accepted it,” Lotman, who was in the United States teams for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, told Sportstar. “It feels nice to be part of what I believe will be an exciting tournament, which could very well take Indian volleyball forward.”

For the past week, he has been training with his newest club, Calicut Heroes.

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“I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Indian players,” he said. “It is not just the main players in the squad, like C. Jerome Vinith, who impressed me, but those in the reserves as well. Some of them may be raw, but I see a lot of potential.”

Back home in the US, too, volleyball was struggling to gain popularity, Lotman said.

“Basketball, baseball, American football, ice hockey, tennis and soccer are way ahead,” he said. “It is disappointing that volleyball, for all the thrills it provides, hasn't caught the imagination of the people. In Poland, however, it is the No. 2 sport and that I feel has a lot to do with the quality of the television coverage."

He is happy that India's pro league will be broadcast on a major sports channel. “Only with the help of television can a sport hope to grow,” he said. “I think the league is going to be a success in India.”

Strong teams

He feels all six teams in the competition are strong and there is little to separate them.

“I was talking to my fellow-countrymen in the league — Carlson Clark (Black Hawks Hyderabad) and David Lee (Kochi Blue Spikers) — and they too are impressed with their Indian teammates,” Lotman said.

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About the new rules that will be implemented in the league — the 15-point games and the requirement to play all the five sets — he hopes it would make the sport more interesting.

“It is going to be a completely new experience for me,” Lotman said. “But I think it can work.”