Chennai Spartans at the Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship
M.H Kumara, who was instrumental in helping Chennai Spartans lift the inaugural RuPayPro Volleyball League Trophy in February, coached the team to a historic campaign in the Asian Men’s Volleyball Club Championship where India made it to the semis for the first time before finishing 4th in the tournament. In this interview, he opens up about his time with the Spartans .<br><br>How did you plan and strategize for the Championship?<br><br>I was very delighted when the Spartans management sought my services for the Asian Club Championship. Since we could pick players from any of the six clubs to represent India, we sat down to prepare a list of players we wanted. Most of the players were involved in an all India tournament in Kerala. So, they joined the training camp and there they were also joined by Rudy and Ruslans. And we started training for the tournament.<br><br>How was the training camp?<br><br>Well, it was very important to have a training camp since most of the players are accustomed to playing outdoors. At the same time, they’re not accustomed to playing with the kind of balls used for the tournament. Lack of adaptation to that ball could have resulted in a lot of reception problems. In fact, our loss in the first match was because of those reasons as it took us time to get acclimatized to the indoor setup, the lighting and all.<br><br>What were the challenges for the team ahead of the tournament?<br><br>On the first couple of days, we didn’t have any training sessions as we just wanted to see how well could all these players from different clubs gel as a unit. It was a big challenge for me to ensure that these players, who till not too long back ago played as opposition, could play together in a team. Also, it was not easy to decide which player takes up which slot in the team. For example, Jerome used to play for Calicut where Rudy Verhoeff had proved to be so effective for Chennai. So, it was a big challenge.<br><br>What changed after the first game where Chennai Spartans suffered a loss?<br><br>We were slow to get off the blocks and the problems were evident in the game against Kazakhstan because of acclimatization issues. But I knew that our team was not inferior to any other team in the tournament and if we could get used to the ball and conditions better, we could beat any team on our day. And we were back the next day. In fact, we should have won 3-0 against Thailand as our attackers were fantastic. But the match stretched to the 5th set and we lost a crucial point there. But, yeah, it was nice to have put on that streak after the first loss.<br><br>Where did the team fall short in the semi-final?<br><br>It’s a memory that hurts because we were so close to making history. Truth be told, we should have won the match against Iran as they were not at the top of their game. In the first set, we almost made it 23-23 before losing. Then in the second set, we led 6-14 at one stage but reception errors cost us dearly. The comeback produced by Iran was morale deflating for our boys but they played brilliantly to win the next set. Even in the 4th set, it was too close before we lost. It hurts to have lost a match which we were capable of winning.<br><br>What separated teams like those of Iran and Japan from the Indian side?<br><br>I think the will to win was stronger. Of course it develops over years of playing together. Also, the way our teams are coached, a lot of emphasis is put on attacking. I think we as a team need to strengthen other areas such as defence and reception to become a stronger force on the global stage. We were brilliant as an attacking unit but not equally good in the other areas. I think it would have helped if we had analyzers with us. Most of the teams carried video analyzers with them. Video analyzers provide very vital pieces of information during the match that can influence the way the match is panning out. I think it would have helped our campaign if we had the services of a video analyzers. But it’s a learning experience for all of us and the hope is to get those things right the next time around.
RuPay Pro Volleyball League
An initiative of Baseline Ventures India Pvt. Ltd and Volleyball Federation of India, RuPay Pro Volleyball League aims to transform the sporting landscape of the country by elevating the world’s fifth most popular sport to the league of the most followed sports in the coming times. The first season of the league will see 6 teams playing a total of 18 matches in Chennai and Kochi, and will be broadcasted on Sony Six, Sony Ten 3 and online platform Sony Liv.
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