Asian Games: Indian men's volleyball team raise medal hopes after 37 years
Sunil Chhetri’s men revive hopes; Indian women's cricket team face Bangladesh in semis
It’s been nearly four decades that Indian men’s volleyball team last secured a medal at the 1986 Asian Games with a bronze. However, Vinit Kumar & Co are daring to dream again as they made the quarter finals on the back of two stunning upsets – grabbing the spotlight from the rest of the Indian contingent in action so far.
The past few days have seen them open with a win against Cambodia, then upset the 2018 silver and bronze medallists South Korea and Chinese Taipei, respectively, to book themselves a last eight berth against Japan on Sunday. Another tough battle is on the cards, but the Indian men are ready to give it a go.
‘’If we win the next match (against Japan) and qualify for the semi-finals, we will be confident of a medal. It would be great to go to the final. We were always confident coming into this match. Our service and our block worked, so we are glad,’’ Muthusamy Appavu, whose role is that of a setter, said. India’s record at the Asian Games so far reads a silver (1962) and two bronze (1958 & 1986) and the team is confident of breaking the 37-year medal drought.
Now ranked world No.73, India had been once a decent volleyball playing nation in Asia, with the legendary Jimmy George playing his trade in overseas leagues as well. Their fortunes had, however, nosedived for long and the preparation for an event like this one had been far from ideal as the national team had just played five matches in the last two years.
However, the birth of the Pro Volleyball League – promoted by a private sports management company which has been at loggerheads with the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) over the last few years – had offered the internationals valuable match practice and a chance to rub shoulders with the overseas professionals.
‘’What works in our favour is that all of us have a natural physique for this sport. The tallest player in the team is 6 feet 8 inches. We have 6'7" and 6'6" players and the average height is 6'5". Our techniques have got a lot better thanks to Prime Volleyball League in which all members of the team participate. We are a naturally attacking side that doesn't give up easily. Things are looking up but the lack of international matches sets us back big time,’’ skipper Kumar added.
The Indian football team’s run-in to the Games campaign was a chaotic one, with the team slumping to a 5-0 defeat against hosts China in their opener not helping the morale. However, Sunil Chhetri & Co shrugged off the loss for a hard fought 1-0 win against Bangladesh and the team is now upbeat on the eve of taking on Myanmar on Sunday.
‘’I am now thinking about the Myanmar match and we need to make sure we qualify,” Stimac told the AIFF website from Hangzhou. “Whether it is a draw or a win, we must qualify. At the same time, I must say that when we hit the pitch, we do it to win,” he added.
The women’s event has got under way with Smriti Mandhana & co bracing up to take on Bangladesh in the semi-final on Sunday. Pakistan take on Sri Lanka in the other last four game and things go as per script, it could be a India-Pakistan final for the crown.
Published: 23 Sep 2023, 4:06 PM