The feast is ready but should it be served outdoor or indoor is the question, thanks to the continuing threat of rain. That is the position with regard to the IOB platinum jubilee National club volleyball championship which is all set to get underway on Sunday either at the originally planned Mayor Radhakrishnan stadium outdoor courts or at the back-up venue, the Montford indoor facility.

With the eight best teams in the men's section and six in the women's category, together representing the cream of volleyball talent in the country in the fray, the fare holds promise. Aside from attractive prize money, the winners (men and women) have the additional incentive of a passage to the Asian championship.

Touch of class

As national coach G.E. Sreedharan put it, “it will certainly be a toss-up. No team can be considered a favourite.” According to him what enriches the championship is the presence of all those players (men and women) who have played in the Asian Games and Asian championship. “That alone will lend a touch of class,” he said.

As the host, IOB, always a fighting side, is bound to stretch fully. The team is well served with the likes of Naveen Raja, Shelton Moses, Ukkrapandian (one of the best setters in the country) and a promising junior Vaishnav.

With IOB's General Manager G.R. Gandhi assuring the team, should it win, of funds to take part in the Asian championship, the players should be doubly eager.

According to Sreedharan, among the other teams, HSIIDC from Haryana has an array of good performers like Sanjay Kumar, Jeetendra Singh. ONGC is a compact unit with names like Mandeep Singh and Guruchand, both top India players. Southern Railway may have a Kapil Dev to show but with experienced players around, it is a team that is never a push-over.

Similar is the description of Indian Navy, the best Services side. Customs has a couple of top juniors in John Christopher and Thennarasan while Punjab Police, ever the robust outfit, is spearheaded by Navjeet Singh, Gurinder singh (considered the country's best universal). Tom Joseph is the well-known face in BPCL but watch out for Rohit, Vipin and Kiran.

A straight round-robin contest will pick the winner in the women's section. Traditional rivals Southern and Central Railways will have a big say but there will be much interest on SAI Tellicherry, one of the two Kerala teams, the other being KSEB.

Eastern Railway and Dr. Sivanthi Club fill up the next two slots.

Keywords: volleyball

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