Kochi's setters good for the PVL format, says coach Kumara

The Blue Spikers are getting ready for the league which begins in Kochi on February 5.

The Kochi Blue Spikers during a training session at their base in Triprayar for the Prime Volleyball League.   -  H. VIBHU

They have coach M.S. Kumara, who guided Chennai Spartans to the PVL title two years ago, and India captain A. Karthik to inspire them.

Still, the word around is that the home boys Kochi Blue Spikers have put themselves in a spot in the sport's most important department, that of a setter.

It appears all the more glaring since Kochi had the seasoned setter M. Ukkrapandian in the 2019 PVL.

But Kumara, also a setter in his prime a few decades ago, brushed away those worries.

“Yes, the setter is the brain behind the team. But we have one foreign setter (Asham Ali), he has played with foreign players in UAE tournaments,” said Kumara, in a chat with Sportstar at the team's training base at Triprayar in Thrissur, on Friday.

“And he knows how to distribute well. And we have another setter, Prasant Saroha. He played the finals at the Nationals last year, so we are no way inferior. Both the setters are very good.

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“And unlike the Nationals (25-point sets), the PVL has 15-point sets. For our league format, these setters are enough.”

Kochi dished out sparkling volleyball in the 2019 league and when the new Prime Volleyball League begins at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium here on February 5, expectations will be high.

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And Asham, the 'foreigner' who hails from Kerala and is now settled in Abu Dhabi, will be closely watched too.

“It was a big surprise for me when I got the call to come here. And it's a big challenge for me especially since Ukkarapandian was with Kochi last year and the team entered the semifinal,” said the 38-year-old Asham. “I'm settling down well with the team.”

Kochi, owned by the Muthoot Pappachan Group, began its PVL preparatory work nearly 10 days but the planned friendlies against Navy and Customs have been dropped to keep the team safe in COVID times. The team is now waiting for the arrival of its two foreigners, Americans Colton Cowell and Cody Caldwell.

“Only after the foreign players arrive and we train with them will we know how good we are. That's the case for the others too,” said Kumara.

The side is in a sort of bio-bubble and the quiet training base has helped too.

The team is a nice mix. “Some of the players in our team are young, they have only played at the university level. For them, this is like a dream,” said the coach.

And the boys are clearly hungry for the league to start.

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