Asian Games: Coach Sarkar wants Indian volleyball to build on momentum gained at Hangzhou

 - Sakshi Post

Hangzhou, Sep 23 (IANS) It's always good to ride the momentum gained through recent success and the Indian men's volleyball team will be hoping to do that when it takes on former champions Japan in a crucial match for a place in tour four and a chance at winning a historic medal.

India had last won a medal in men's volleyball at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul and will be hoping to get back into medal contention after 37 years and end the drought.

In the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, India have so far won all three matches. But what has boosted their morale is that two of their wins have come against South Korea and Chinese Taipei, the silver and bronze medallists in the 2018 edition in Jakarta,

"The victories against Korea and Chinese Taipei have given the players a huge confidence boost. We have never won three matches in a row in the Asian Games, so we are confident about taking on Japan," India's head coach Jaideep Sarkar told IANS on Saturday.

India started their campaign in Hangzhou with a 3-0 win against Cambodia on September 19. But what made everyone sit up and take note of their prowess was the stunning 3-2 win over South Korea in a thriller, coming back from losing the first set to win 25-27, 29-27, 25-22, 20-25, 17-15 in a two hour, 23-minute marathon.

Though the match left the players drained, it did give them a perfect boost to their morale as Korea is a five-time gold medallist in the Asian Games and have won 31 medals in all. The gain in confidence was reflected in their 3-0 win against Chinese Taipei, bronze medallist at Jakarta in 2018. It was expected to be a tough match and skipper Vinit Kumar said they expected it to go four sets at least if not five. But the straight-sets win proved how strong the current Indian team is.

However, the match against Japan would not be easy for India. Japan is the most successful team in the Asian Games, having won the gold medal eight times in the men's competition. They are the strongest team along with Iran currently and therefore a big hurdle in the path for India.

"It will be a tough match no doubt, but the boys are very confident after winning three matches in a row for the first time. I can only say that we will come up with our best performance but the results are not in our hands. Anything can happen tomorrow," coach Sarkar said.

Victory against Japan on Sunday will put India in medal contention.

Winning the medal in the Asian Games for the first time in 37 years will be a huge achievement for Indian volleyball.

Head coach Jaideep Sarkar says India should capitalise on this performance by his boys to help promote the sport to harness the talent in the country so that India can build on the Asian Games success and excel on the World stage too.

Indian volleyball looked on an upswing a decade back when the country's Youth Team won the silver medal in the World Youth Championship, losing to Brazil in the final. A few years after that, the Indian Men's U21 team reached the semifinals of the World Junior Volleyball Championship in Pune. Before that in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, the senior men's team had missed reaching the semifinals by just one point.

But after that Indian volleyball went into a tailspin, losing momentum over governance issues as factionalism surfaced in the federation and hampered the progress of the sport in the country.

Jaideep Sarkar, who has had lengthy stints with the senior team as an assistant coach before taking over as head coach, says the problems in the federation hampered the progress of the sport and players. But now is the time to build on the momentum.

"Now the government, SAI and the Volleyball federation have given the team a lot of support. We have a two and half month-long camp in Bangalore before the Asian Games.

"What we need to do is to take the game to the grassroots level, educational institutions, in strong volleyball pockets. We get good talent from the four Southern states, from the North and now we are getting players from the North East also -- Abhijeet Bhattacharya, the former India captain is from Assam. We need to provide facilities at the school level and harness the talent. I am sure if we manage to capitalise on this success, the senior national team will soon be competing again at the world level," said Sarkar.

He said the need of the hour is for a proper systematic development plan from sub-junior to senior level so that volleyball rears up its head once again.

As a coach involved with Indian volleyball for decades, Jaideep Sarkar does not want India to lose this opportunity.

Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by the Sakshi Post team and is auto-generated from syndicated feed.

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