This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Indian volleyball has been coming up in leaps and bounds over the recent years, but the profile of the sport in the country has seen little change, thanks to poor or absolutely absent media coverage and encouragement.
Non-cricket sports like volleyball struggle to assert themselves in the media space, and one wonders how many really know that India finished a laudable 5th at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. The fifth-place finish by the Indian team is indeed praiseworthy because they finished behind Asia’s top four teams – Iran, Japan, South Korea and China.
The Asian Games showing proves India’s immense volleyball talent, but if adequate care is not taken to encourage the sport, it may hit a downward spiral sooner rather than later. Volleyball hasn’t quite spread to all parts of the country, although it is popular in the country’s rural belts.
The sport has attained some popularity in Punjab, and enjoys a major presence in Southern Indian states likes Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Barring this, most other parts of the country see mediocre interest at best. “There is a need to encourage volleyball. Barring some southern states and a few others, the sport despite its popularity in rural belts hasn’t attracted all and sundry. Hiring on sports quota has dried up with the likes of Indian Railways, ONGC, Indian Overseas, Indian Bank among a few others recruiting volleyball players. This applies to both men and women spikers,” said a Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) official.
Volleyball has immense potential in the country, but unless more jobs are on offer, youth will not want to pick up the sport – a point once raised by former Indian volleyball head coach GE Sridharan.
Despite all odds, however, the Indian men’s volleyball team is taking part in the 2015 Asian Volleyball Championship in Tehran, hoping to build on the gains attained at the 2014 Asian Games.
The national team has a new captain in S Prabagaran from Tamil Nadu, who is touted as one of the best attackers in the country. They will also have a new coach, A Venkatesan, also from Tamil Nadu. Prabagaran was one of the chief architects of India’s 5th place finish at the 2014 Asiad, helping his employers, Indian Railways, win the national games, inter-railways events and the World Railway Games.
Prabagaran’s side, which has a fair sprinkling of youngsters, will not find it easy as they are pitted in a group that features strong sides such as Turkmenistan, Australia and Qatar. One hopes that the Indian spikers will reach the quarterfinals and beyond at the 2015 Asian Volleyball Championship and keep the sport alive and kicking.