India's best not good enough for Kerala

The Kerala State Volleyball Association chose to give the in-form Jerome and Akhin a miss when picking the state team for the Federation Cup in February.

In-form volleyball players, including Jerome Vinith and G.S. Akhin, haven't found a place in the Kerala state team   -  R. Ragu

He is one of the country's best volleyball players and his presence often sends a shiver down rival teams but surprisingly, C. Jerome Vinith does not find a place in the Kerala team for next month's Federation Cup in Rajasthan.

Also missing are G.S. Akhin and Shon T. John, both current internationals, and setter N. Jithin who led Kerala in the senior Nationals in late December.

Just 10 days ago, middle blocker Akhin (29 points from three matches) and universal Jerome (26 points) finished as the second and third best scorers for India, behind Amit (34), in the AVC Tokyo Olympics Continental qualifiers in China.

“Though we lost all the three matches in our group, against Qatar, Korea and Australia, the scores were very close. Jerome, attacker Amit from Haryana, blocker Akhin and setter Ukkrapandian played extraordinarily well,” National Coach G.E. Sridharan, who was with the team in the Olympic qualifiers, told Sportstar on Friday.

But apparently, that has not moved the Kerala State Volleyball Association (KSVA).

“The performance of these players in the Nationals in Bhubaneswar was very poor. We had five Indian players but still we failed (semifinal exit) because of their service and first pass,” explained KSVA Secretary Nalakath Basheer.

“We felt that that seriousness was missing with these players. When you are playing the Nationals, shouldn't that seriousness be there?”

Incidentally, the KSVA did not have a preparatory camp for the Nationals.

“Most of the players came for the Nationals directly from the Indian camp. And there shouldn't have been a problem combining because four of the main six players come from the same club, BPCL,” said the KSVA Secretary.

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Jerome Vinith and CS Akhin   -  Special arrangement

He feels that there are some very talented youngsters waiting to prove themselves.

“Some of the youngsters are far better than the Indian players. Shouldn't we give them an opportunity too? We have Jibin Sebastian, who is an outstanding player but because of Jerome he is on the bench. We are now giving the youngsters this opportunity to see how good they are.”

Meanwhile Mohan Ukkarapandian, a big star in Tamil Nadu's recent National triumph, said that one cannot expect top players to maintain a high level all through the season.

“The players you are talking about are India's main players and when we have a series of events, the load is too much. We had the Asian championship, then the South Asian Games, followed by the State championship and then the Indian camp, then the Nationals, followed by the Olympic qualifiers,” said the seasoned setter from Madurai.

“So, now and then, performance will naturally go down.”