India put up an improved performance to crush Pakistan in straight sets, 25-17, 25-15, 25-22, in the final league match of the third Asian volleyball championship (central zone) at the Netaji Indoor Stadium to set up a revenge match in the final against Iran on Monday.
Earlier, Iran outplayed Kazakhstan 25-20, 25-10, 25-19 to emerge the league phase with an all-win record to top the table with six points. India finished second with two wins and a loss. Kazakhstan was third with one win and two defeats and Pakistan, having lost all the three matches, finished at the bottom.
Doing everything right
India seemed to do everything right in the face of a poor show by Pakistan. The induction of Gurchand Singh in the starting line-up galvanised the team, though he did make a number of errors. His contribution at the back court added to India's defence and the angles of his smashes brooked no response. Captain Sanjay Kumar excelled in his role as a universal and his spiking rate was almost cent per cent. Setter M. Ukkrapandian was flawless while Sube Singh, Kumar and G. Pradeep were unstoppable in the attacking zone.
India's blocking was effective as Kumar joined Sube and the Pakistanis could hardly penetrate the defence. India's service was its weakest part in the 70-minute encounter and most of the points Pakistan managed were gifted away by India with loose play.
An elated India coach, Desh Raj, told the media that this victory would boost India's chances against Iran. “It is a fantastic win. Everything went off well as we had planned,” he said. “We will give a good fight in the final and try to win the title.''
Sanjay Kumar said that with Gurchand available for Monday's final, India would be able to play its best side against Iran. “It will be a very tough match as because Iran is No. 1 in Asia. We will try our best to win the game,'' he felt.
Pakistan coach, Augusto Sabbatini, blamed his team's poor show to delay in getting visas from the Indian High Commission in Pakistan.
Iran put up another dominating show against Kazakhstan. After winning the two sets with ease, it relaxed to allow the Kazakhs to run close in the third before winning.
The results: Group league: Iran bt Kazakhstan 25-20, 25-10, 25-19; India bt Pakistan 25-17, 25-15, 25-22.