Defending champion India began its quest for a third Asian volleyball (central zone) title in right earnest with a comfortable straight game win over Kazakhstan at the Netaji indoor stadium here on Friday.
Iran, one of the strong contenders for the crown, also won in straight games against Pakistan on the opening day.
Despite not finding their rhythm throughout the 83-minute encounter, it was a stroll for the Indians as Kazakhstan failed to raise its game. India's game suffered on two counts: poor blocking and below par showing by captain Sanjay Kumar.
Sube Singh's service was pathetic and the back-court defence too suffered owing to lack of coordination.
While admitting the flaws that affected India, coach Desh Raj and Sanjay felt that these shortcomings were mainly because it was the first match. “You will see a completely different side on Saturday,'' asserted Raj. “We have noted the mistakes and will rectify them against Iran.''
Both India and Kazakhstan were involved in a close tussle for supremacy in the first game till 11-11. Superior experience enabled India to pull away to 16-14 and 22-18 before wrapping it up 25-18 in 33 minutes.
The second game was rather one-sided with India jumping to a 12-6 lead. At the second technical time-out, it was 16-9 and the host eventually took the game 25-11 in 24 minutes.
Just when it looked like India would wrap up the third game quickly, the Kazakhs fought back, making full use of India's loose play. India trailed 13-16 and 17-18 before pulling away to win 25-23.
Iran, comprising mostly of juniors, did not find it tough against Pakistan. In an error-prone contest, Iran's superior all-round game decided the issue though the Pakistanis showed some spark in spiking and blocking. Their service was a big letdown and it proved to be crucial in the team's loss.
In all the three games, Pakistan kept pace with Iran initially but failed to sustain the momentum and lost 25-21, 25-19, 25-18.
The results: League: Iran bt Pakistan 25-21, 25-19, 25-18; India bt Kazakhstan 25-18, 25-11, 25-22.
Keywords: Asian volleyball