India fails to mount a decent challenge

Iran once again proved its supremacy over India, this time winning the final of the third Asian volleyball championship (central zone) 25-19, 25-22, 29-27 at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here on Monday.

Iran's play was convincing and authoritative. Showing an all-round play with power and precision in front of a goodly crowd, the Iranians were far superior to the home side in tactics, technique and temperament.

Despite losing to the same side in the league phase, the Indians did not learn much. In this match, the Iranians did not give much of a chance to the Indians though the home team did enjoy a handsome lead in the third game before the visitors turned the game on its head with some scintillating power play.

India began with Sanjay Kumar, Gurchand Singh, Vibin George, Sube Singh, M. Ukkrapandian and libero Kanagaraj. It did not take long for Iran to race away to a 13-6 lead in the first set.

Semblance of solidity

Gurchand, who played for the first time against Iran in this meet, did bring in some semblance of solidity but the overwhelming play of Iran drowned India's chances completely.

“Our blocking was not up to the mark,'' rued coach Desh Raj. “We could manage only three to four blocks in this match. We cannot win matches with this kind of performance.''

Captain Sanjay Kumar too felt the same. “Our blocking and reception were very poor. We could not stop Iran's fast attack which made all the difference,'' he said.

Iran's first six, Vali Nourmohammadi, Rahman Davoodi, Mojtaba Shaban, libero Golmohammad Sakhavi, Ahmed Babaei and setter Saber Narimanazhad were outstanding individually and collectively. Be it in attack or defence, the team stood out with fantastic anticipation and variety in attack.

Iran's libero was brilliant throughout excelling in reception and retrieving at the back court and enabled the side to turn losing moments into winning ones. He has to be the man of the final without any doubt.

Sanjay Kumar excels

India pulled out Sanjay Kumar, who was totally blocked out by the Iranians, midway through the second set and his replacement Gurinder Singh did excel with his power-packed smashes and angular spikes but due to the team's failure his show went unnoticed.

Kanagaraj looked completely out of sorts against the fast attacking and hard serving opponents and his receptions put the setter Ukkrapandian in many an awkward position. The experienced setter too failed to rise to the occasion.

The loss of second set galvanised the Indians and the home team ran away to a good lead of 18-13. But some loose play by the Indians and a spirited fightback by the Iranians meant the scores were tied 22-22 and 26-26 before Iran pulled away to win.

State sports Minister Kanti Bhusan Ganguli handed over the winner's trophy to Iran while his cabinet colleague, Naren De, minister-in-charge, department of agriculture, gave away the runner-up trophy to India. Commissioner of Police G.M. Chakrabarti distributed the third place trophy to Kazakhstan.

The results: Final: Iran bt India 25-19, 25-22, 29-27.

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