The third Asian senior men's volleyball championship (central zone) got off to a bright start with a well-organised opening ceremony at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here on Thursday. State governor, M.K. Narayanan, declared the tournament open.

The four-team championship will be played in a single league format with the top two teams in the league playing the final on Monday. Considering the relative strengths of the teams, it seems the host has the best chance to defend the title it had won in 2007 at Islamabad.

India, led by Sanjay Kumar, is well prepared for the tournament. “We have a good side with strong reserve bench,” informed head coach Desh Raj. “The team has been preparing well and we fancy our chances of making the final,” he said.

Indian skipper Kumar was much more forthcoming. “Our aim is to make the final,” he said.

Expectations high

The team's bronze medal winning effort at the Asian Cup in Iran last month and a highly satisfying exposure trip to Poland and Slovenia for two weeks will certainly help the side to do exceptionally well here.

Iran, a powerhouse in Asian volleyball, has sent its second best sideKazakhstan, the inaugural year winner in 2006 at Colombo, had finished third in the last meet.

The country has a strong history in this sport and had contributed a number of players to the USSR before it broke up. Kazakh coach, Parsins Genadijs, said India and Iran were very strong sides. “We will give a good fight in our endeavour to win the tournament.”

Everyday there will be two matches starting at 3 and 5 p.m.

The fixtures:

League: Sept. 17: Iran vs Pakistan, India vs Kazakhstan; Sept. 18: Kazakhstan vs Pakistan, India vs Iran; Sept. 19: Kazakhstan vs Iran; India vs Pakistan; Sept. 20: Final.

The Indian squad: Sanjay Kumar (captain), Guruchand Singh, G. Pradeep, Sube Singh, Shelton Moses, Vibin George, Gurinder Singh, Ukkrapandian, Balwinder Singh, Kanagaraj (libero), Naveen Raja Jacob and P.S. Srikanth. Head coach: Desh Raj; Assistant Coach: Abhimanyu Singh.

More In: Other Sports | Sport