Guttikonda Pradeep is fast becoming a name to reckon with in the game

The sheer volume of international achievement should make Guttikonda Pradeep perhaps the most eligible to lead a side in the newly constituted Indian Volley League (IVL). “Pradeep's rise has been rapid, superseding several senior players in his climb to the top,” said former chief National coach Shyam Sunder Rao. “Not surprisingly, he has been getting overseas offers too,” says the Dronacharya awardee.

“As is common with intelligent players, he's a little slack with endurance training. Very athletic, his attack is splendid but if his blocking against fast combinations can be improved, he could be among the best in the world,” suggests the Arjuna awardee.

The versatility of this volleyball player has earned him accolades by the handful. To mention a few, the six-foot five-inch tall blocker was adjudged the best player in the Rashid international tournament held in Dubai last year, the best all-rounder in 2008 for Dubai Club, which he represents in the Emirates and the best blocker in the Test series against Pakistan in 2007.

In the 2006 Kazakhisthan invitation tournament, Pradeep emerged the best attacker, lest it be mistaken that his role was limited to defence. For 2005 and 2006, he was twice declared the best blocker of an Italian invitation tournament, proving his accomplishments went much beyond Asia's borders.

“Pradeep's blocking is of European standards,” says V. Ravikanth Reddy, former Indian captain. “He played a very crucial role during a game against China in the Asian championships,” recalls Reddy, the IVLs Chairman.

Pradeep has figured prominently in India's gold medal-winning performances in the Test series against Poland and Slovenia last year, the 2007 Asian Central zone championships in Pakistan, the 2004 SAF Games also in the neighbouring country and the 2003 World Railway championships in France.

“In last year's Guangzhou Asian Games, Pradeep was simply outstanding,” says former international G. Venu Madhav, “especially in the match against Japan, the eventual winner. The understanding he shares with Ukkarapandian is exceptional, especially in quick attack.”

“South Central Railway and Andhra Pradesh's loss have become Chennai Customs and Tamil Nadu's gain, as Pradeep steered the southern state to triumph in both the National championships at Chennai and the National Games at Ranchi,” rues Madhav.