Sports Reporter

COIMBATORE: Despite India's dismal show at the Rashid international volleyball tournament in Dubai, chief national coach Augusto Jose Sabbatini is confident that his boys would strike gold at next month's South Asian Federation Games in Colombo.

"They have started to practise hard. I'm involved in a lot of planning. A good amount of groundwork has been done and the papers piled all over my room will tell the true story," said the Brazilian, speaking from Bangalore.

Sabbatini said his team prepared earnestly before leaving for Dubai. "They played to the situation, it was just that they lost that day," he said.

It would be a bit unfair to place the blame for the flop show at Sabbatini's door. He is new to the job. He has just had three months with the team, two of which were spent on the fitness aspect.

Pressure situation

He has just come to know about the pressure involved in an India-Pakistan clash. "Now, I understand it's more like a Brazil-Argentina football clash," he said.

Now, he is working hard to put the setback behind. I have left my family in Brazil for the good of the game in India. At the moment, the team is my family," he said.

Team looks balanced

"The team looks balanced. We have included Sanjay Kumar (universal) and Sivarajan (libero) for the SAF Games. They will add strength," he said.

Sivarajan's inclusion means India is trying its fourth libero in five events. This shows that the team is yet to find the right man for the job.

"There is also a possibility of Arun Jakhmola returning," said Sabbatini, which means that the Services star is a libero who can be relied upon.

However, his name does not figure in the list of 18 called for the SAF camp, leave alone the 12 which national coach Shyam Sunder Rao is talking about. So, if the libero does not figure in the SAF Games, he is likely to play the Asian Games in Doha this December.

Lack of practice

Shyam Sunder, who has helped the Indian team write many golden chapters in the past, attributed the Dubai loss to lack of match practice. "Also, Sabbatini did not understand the seriousness of an India-Pakistan clash. It was my duty to explain things to him and I did," he said.

He said the team would win the gold at the SAF Games and, with it, regain some lost pride. "The players are all mature. At the moment, their morale is down. Not to worry. We have started to motivate them and it's only a matter of time before they recover from the Dubai shock," he said.

Apart from setter Kapil Dev, all the main players have joined the camp.

Tom Joseph, K. Dev, Sanjay Kumar, R. Kamaraj, Y. Subba Rao, R. Rajeev, Abdul Azeez, P.S. Srikanth, Sivarajan, Jitender Singh, J. Nadarajan and M.N. Vikram are the players likely to take the flight to Colombo, he added.

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