It was a flying start. With a display that underlined the technical excellence in blocking and spiking, Karnataka Bulls defeated the local outfit, Chennai Spikers, by three games to one in the opening match of the second edition of the Indian Volley League (IVL) on Saturday.
The outcome may appear as an aberration in the background of the performances Bulls recorded in the first leg at Bangalore. But the team showed commendable combination both in individual attack and in the backcourt.
A rich tribute needs to be paid for the proficiency exhibited by the Sanjay Kumar. With a pronounced jump and angling his shots with enviable accuracy, Sanjay made Chennai Spikers players' life miserable. He was the trump card for Bulls.
Joining Sanjay in the effort to subdue a popular rival were Shelton Moses and Vikram. Both were conspicuous in their attack, the former in particular was immaculate at the net. Vikram unleashed some powerful smashes that brooked no reply.
The Chennai outfit leaned heavily on Kapil Dev, the best known name on the national scene. As this Arjuna Awardee looked subdued for the major part, the team was anything but consistent. Prabhakaran showed a semblance of fight as did Mandeep Singh. But neither could maintain a consistent rhythm to build pressure on the rival.
Karnataka wrapped up the opening set without much ado but faced a real challenge in the second thanks to the hard work of Prabhakaran.
But in the third Karnataka inched its way to win at 25-18, and broke away to victory in the fourth after being level at 17-17.
The match was behind schedule by more than 75 minutes as the opening ceremony and frills connected with it consumed more than necessary time leaving the spectators and the media frustrated by the avoidable delay.
More professionalism in time management is a sine qua non if IVL wants to compare itself with the more efficiently-organised IPL.
Hyderabad Chargers and Kerala Killers figured in a pulsating contest that went to full distance.
The Chargers proved more cohesive and combative to neutralise the power and precision of Naveen Raja Jacob but the splendid display by Sudarshan Varma as the tie progressed accentuated the excitement.
Shameen and Jinson Varghese lent admirable support. This helped the Kerala team to stage an exciting recovery in the fourth game.
With the star performer Ukkrapandian nursing an injury, Hyderabad Chargers placed relied on Lavmeeth Kataraia and Gurinder Singh.
Both of them did not disappoint. Kataria's dominance at the net was stunning as were the shots by Gurinder at crucial moments.
Kerala Killers carried the fight to the bitter end in the fourth game levelling at 24 all after trailing 10-15 and 15-20 at one point. In the tense final moments, Killers pushed Chargers to extra points and won eventually at 29-27. In the final set, Hyderabad carried on comfortably to seal the match at 15-8.
Mr. Machendranathan, Additional Secretary, Government of India, declared open the event in the presence of Dr. Sundaradevan, Secretary, Industries, Tamil Nadu, K. Murugan, Secretary-General, Volleyball Federation of India and C. Sakthikumar, co-owner of Chennai Spikers.
The results: Yanam Tigers bt Maratha Warriors 25-23, 26-24, 25-20.
Karnataka Bulls bt Chennai Spikers 25-22, 21-25, 25-18, 25-21; Hyderabad Chargers bt Kerala Killers 25-19, 22-25, 25-23, 27-29, 15-8.
Sunday's matches: Kerala Killers vs Yanam Tigers (3.30 p.m.); Chennai Spikers vs Maratha Warriors (5 p.m.); Hyderabad Chargers vs Karnataka Bulls (6.30 p.m.)
Keywords: Indian Volley League