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This could be India?s low 5 in vollyball

In Busan four years ago, India finished fifth behind South Korea, Iran, Japan and China, writes Shweta Thampan.

india Updated: Nov 25, 2006 22:15 IST

Shweta Thampan

New Delhi, November 25

For those who believe in divining the future through numbers, five could be the decisive number for the Indian volleyball team in Doha.

India had finished third for bronze when volleyball was introduced in the Games in Tokyo 1958; they went on to improve their performance for a silver in the next Games in Jakarta. They fired blanks over the next five editions of the Asiad before winning a medal at the sixth, when they finished behind China and Korea for a bronze in the 1986 Games in Seoul.

That was India's last medal in the Asian Games — this is the fifth Asiad after that, and if the numbers theory holds true, India may have to wait four more years to win another medal in volleyball.

In Busan four years ago, India finished fifth behind South Korea, Iran, Japan and China — and they are fifth in Asia and 25th in world rankings.

There are differences between the teams of the past and this year's squad. The major difference is the presence of a Brazilian coach, Augusto Jose Sabbatini, appointed in April this year by the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) to ensure a medal in Doha. With the VFI banking on the coach to train his wards to a medal this year, Sabbatini would surely be under pressure.

"The team has been training under a new foreign coach, and we are expecting a medal this time around," said team manager A Ramana Rao from Hyderabad, the venue of the preparatory camp, before leaving for Doha. But winning a medal is not going to be easy — the team is in the same group as strong contenders Thailand in the second round, based on their performance in the Asian Championships.

Also, first up India will meet the mighty China in the first match on December 4. In the long history of Asian volleyball, India have always encountered trouble when faced with the three regional giants — South Korea, China and Japan — in senior as well as junior events.

However, the tough opener can be looked at in a positive light as well — the encounter could tune India for what lies ahead.