Defending champions India were bulldozed out of the final by a power-packed Iran side that won the Men's Asian Volleyball Championship (central zone) at Netaji Indoor Stadium here on Monday. India were demolished 19-25, 22-25, 27-29 in just 81 minutes.
A fair idea of Iran's domination can be formed from the fact that India led, by a single point, only once in the first two sets. When the hosts finally opened up a five-point lead in the third, Iran regrouped and clawed back to take the set and the match 29-27.
Poor blocking at the net and awful reception of service and retrieving, especially by libero Kanagaraj, dogged the hosts. India had raised hopes of a revenge of their league match defeat to Iran after thumping archrivals Pakistan on Sunday.
Gurchand Singh, the skipper of the team that won bronze in the Asian Cup in Iran last month, had made a comeback from a foot injury on Sunday when the hosts fielded their full-strength team for the first time in the tournament.
Gurchand had combined well with new skipper Sanjay Kumar, the highest scorer in the Asian Cup, to lead India's attack against Pakistan.
But Monday turned out to be a bad day for Kumar, who was replaced late in the second set by Gurinder Singh. Gurinder was part of the India junior team that finished fourth in the World Championships in Pune last year. The 20-year-old played his part and thanks to some of his super winners from the backcourt, India had their noses ahead in the third.
But trailing 13-18, Iran changed their ploy by applying both Mojtaba Sahban and Javad R. Mohammadnejadi as universals. It worked. India tried to counter by pushing Gurchand and Gurinder as universals, but failed.
On at least three occasions, the Indians started to celebrate after pinning a smash only to realise suddenly that Iran had managed to keep the ball in play. Iran went on to win two of those three points.
“They were too fast for us,” coach Desh Raj said after the match. “Moreover we could make just two or three blocks in the entire match. No team will be able to win if its blocks are not working.”