The jaya he part of India's National Anthem could not be played to the stands before the start of the Asian Men's Volleyball Championship (central zone) match between the hosts and Kazakhstan at the Netaji Indoor Stadium as FIVA (international volleyball federation) rules stipulate just 45 seconds for every country's tune. But the voices in the stands continued till the Kazakh anthem, which followed, drowned them.
The Indians got their campaign off to a flying start, winning in straight sets 25-18, 25-12, 25-22 in 82 minutes, recovering from a four-point deficit in the third set.
But then the motley crowd that braved the rain to enjoy the Friday evening of Biswakarma Puja — the beginning of the Bengali festive season — did not get their money's worth in terms of quality and competitiveness.
The Indians were patchy through the match and somehow their blocking at the net had gone for a toss. The combination made an inexperienced Kazakh side look a lot more formidable in attack.
“It was our first match here and we will surely improve as the tournament progresses. You will see a completely different performance against Iran tomorrow. We have come here to win. The boys are confident after their performance against Iran in the Asian Cup and we are confident of beating them in our backyard,” India coach Desh Raj said, with nods of approval from captain Sanjay Kumar.
Kumar, the highest scorer for the bronze medal winning Indian side at the Asian Cup last month, was not too happy with his performance on Friday. There were gaping holes in the backcourt, which became more pronounced as the blocks did not come at the net.
Naveen Raja Jacob upfront and M. Ukkrapandian at the back were the saving grace. Naveen with two others, Balwinder Singh and Gurinder Singh, were part of the U-19 team that finished fourth in the Junior World Championships in Pune last year.
The 20-year-old was super while attacking at the net and every now and then came up with some deceptive dips to fox the three-man Kazakh roof. Ukkrapandian hit some great winners from the backcourt and delivered some sizzling serves.
Iran on top
Even with their second string side, Iran looked a well-tuned unit against a tired Pakistani team as Iran beat them 25-21, 25-19, 25-18.