Having not progressed beyond the Quarterfinals of the Asian Games since 1986, do Indian Volleyball team have what it takes to win the volleyball gold this time?
In the run-up to the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Fisto Sports take a look at Indian Volleyball team’s credentials.
Unbeknownst to many, volleyball is still probably one of the most practiced sports in schools across urban and rural India, especially in the southern part of the country. But the same cannot be said about the sport when it comes to the world stage as the quality of volleyball looks far off from any international standards.
Presently, Indian volleyball is undergoing a revival process amid ceaseless political crisis. The men’s team is placed at 38th and women’s at 55th in the FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) World Ranking rankings.
The side in the Asian rankings is not a good sign – 8th and 9th ranking respectively. It’s not too bad, but not great either which in need of consistently improved performance particularly the men’s side.
Despite producing a few stars over the years, volleyball in India remains as a chicken and egg situation with growing the game and finding the groove, with the launch of the 2017 Pro Volleyball League, we should see all these problems being sorted out.
Unlikely to cause too many upsets, this Jakarta volleyball tournament should be about getting India’s bunch of talented youngsters some experience before they seriously challenge for a major title.
Story so far
Volleyball was introduced in the year 1958 in Tokyo Asian Games. Women event started in 1962 Jakarta Asian Games.
In 1958 inaugural event, only 5 nations participated in the Men’s volleyball competition. The tournament was played in league format. India defeated Philippines and Hong Kong but lost to Japan and Iran to settle for Bronze.
India settled with Silver Medal in 1962and finished fourth in 1966 and bronze in 1986 to culminate a merry three medals so far in the Asian Games and still is a strong team to beat.
In the women’s event, India had participated only twice. First was in 2010 Asian Games where the team finished at ninth place and in the previous edition they finished with one win over Maldives.
But the squad travelled to Jakarta with a good mix of skilled youngsters and experienced campaigners, the team will look to end the hunt for a first medal since the 1986.
But they need to turn the tides against the likes of Asian powerhouse such as Japan, China and recent emergence Iran to win their first ever gold medal in the sport.
Men Team: Akhin Gopala Ammal, Ashok Karthik, Deepesh Kumar Sinha, Prabagaran, Amit, Ajithlal Chandran, Rohit Kumar, Gurinder Singh, Jerome Vinith Charles, Vinit Kumar, Ranjit Singh, Ukkrapandian Mohan, Prabakaran Pattani, Pankaj Sharma
Women Team: Anju Balakrishnan, Soorya, Anusri Ghosh, Aswani Kandoth, Nirmala, Rekha Sreesailam, Anusree Kambrath Poyilil, Sruthi Murali, Minimol Abraham, Anjali Babu, Jini Kovat Shaji, Ruksana Khatun, Priyanka Khedkar, Aswathi Raveendran
Just a few more days to go before #TeamIndia gets on the volleyball court for their group stage matches at the #AsianGames2018. Stay tuned to #ProVolleyball for all the updates on the #SpikeWars. #KoiKasarNahi pic.twitter.com/MdGpIaZfMS— Pro Volleyball (@ProVolleyballIN) August 13, 2018
Strengths and Weaknesses
This is a young ambitious team that can do well against stronger opponents, with attacking line of Jerome Vinith, Prabhagaran, Ajith Lal and setter Ukkra Pandian who is playing his third Asian Games and his first as captain they can grab a number of point.
The defensive block is a worry as they have a number of older players and a lack quality in the back-line. Although and Akhin and Deepesh Sinha are there they are knocking on a bit should do well this time around.
The women’s team, on the other hand have the biggest advantage is that they are training under Dronacharya G E Sridharan, who will aim to bring the best out of the girls which have the likes of Minimol Abraham and libero Priyanka Khedkar, experienced server Nirmala and young setter, Jini K.S. who is capable of making deceptive drops on her opponents and was a crucial part of Kerala’s run to the finals of the 2018 senior nationals.
What to expect
Getting out of the group should be no problem for Belgium, who have more than enough about themselves to navigate past Hong Kong, Qatar and Maldives. Unfortunately for them, things get a lot tougher after that. A potential quarterfinal clash against either China or Thailand awaits and a lot tougher in the semis. But with the young, talented squad, this tournament is about getting experience of playing on the biggest stage in the world rather than about trying to win it.
While the women’s team, the cohesion among five players who have been together for years is hard to beat. Coach Sridharan and captain Minimol Abraham will be able to nurture and guide their team to victory. Given the short preparation time that our national team had, one would hope that the nightmare of their previous encounter will not haunt them again.
In the recent times, the team shown some glimpse of good performance but struggled to dominate, so it shows they are still a work in progress. As with their unpredictable nature you never know which team is going to turn up this year and that could be a risk if they want to go far in Jakarta.
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