There is a perceptible mood of anticipation as the second leg of the Indian Volley League (IVL) is poised to begin at the JN Stadium on Saturday. The success of the opening stanza at Bangalore has enhanced the excitement.
With the top national talent spread across the six teams in the fray, any attempt at guessing the outcome at this point can be misleading. All combatants look balanced in every facet.
Importantly, the combinations had enough time to blend their skills and strength during the first leg, which witnessed incredible swings in fortunes almost everyday.
If there is greater focus on Maratha Warriors led by the gangling Indian captain, G. Pradeep, it is largely related to the success accomplished at Bangalore. Warriors finished with eight points, winning four of the five matches. The combination of blocker Pradeep, Guruchand Singh and Balwinder, bronze medallists in the Asia Cup, proved strong and sharp to handle for the opponents.
Inconsistency proved a deterrent for Chennai Spikers at Bangalore. Yet, the local squad finished as runner-up after a poor start. But the team is bound to produce a better brand before the home crowd. The strength lies in the proficiency of setter Kapil Dev, an Arjuna Award winner, and the attacking prowess of stars such as Ragesh, Karthikeyan, Prabhakaran.
Captain Nadarajan is optimistic that with increasing fitness level, Chennai Spikers stands a good chance of topping the table here.
He also pointed out that Chennai Spikers was the only team to beat Maratha Warriors.
Yanam Tigers, which also finished on par with Chennai Spikers on points, has an impressive trio in Singh, John Christopher and Tom Joseph to turn the tables on any opponent. It is another team that was not in full strength in the opening phase.
Notwithstanding the presence of all-rounder Ukkrapandian, Hyderabad Chargers had a disappointing first leg, taking only the fourth slot at Bangalore.
Stars such as Gurvinder Singh and Kasi Viswanath Raju should pull their weight to give Chargers an honourable place on the table.
K.P. Shaheen has been outstanding for Kerala Killers so far. The team finished fifth followed by Karnataka Bulls.
But the equations are bound to change in the next five days what with pressure mounting on the teams from the owners.
Meanwhile, Nellai Friends VC, the host for this edition, is leaving no stone unturned to meet the demands of conducting a professional tournament in accordance with the directives of the VFI and FIVB.
Saturday's matches: Karnataka Bulls vs Chennai Spikers (3.30 p.m.); Kerala Killers vs Hyderabad Chargers (5 p.m.); Yanam Tigers vs Maratha Warriors (6.30 p.m.).
Keywords: Indian Volley League