When the women’s team of Sports Authority of India (SAI) lifted the National youth volleyball championship at Shegaon, Maharashtra, recently, Gopal Krishna, sitting in his New Delhi office, was delighted.

“I took a decision to field SAI’s teams for National championships because SAI wanted to test our trainees at the highest level in the country and to give chances to more of them,” Krishna, Director General, SAI, told The Hindu on Friday.

He added SAI would be fielding its own teams at the National championships in football, hockey, basketball, handball and kabaddi. “We thought we could assess our work in training athletes better when we field our teams at National championships, rather than letting them play for different States,” Krishna said. “With only a few players making it to the respective State squads and some States having weak teams, we felt more from SAI could get an opportunity to play at the Nationals.”

He said SAI did not mind the trophies the decision could bring to the organisation. “Yes, it felt great when our women’s team triumphed at the National youth volleyball in Maharashtra, where our men’s team reached the final,” he said. “I am also happy for the SAI coaches, who would now know how it feels like being the coach of a champion side. They hardly get the credit, as their wards normally play for the State teams.”

Krishna said a lot of hard work had gone behind the success of the SAI volleyball teams. “They were given a month’s training at Aurangabad before the tournament,” he said.

He said he did not expect resistance to SAI’s move from the State organisations, who could argue that their teams could lose out their best players to SAI. “SAI would continue to provide its players to the State teams,” he said. “Several players of Uttar Pradesh, which beat SAI in the men’s final at the National youth volleyball championship, are from SAI.”

Coach happy

T. Balachandran, who coached the SAI women’s team to triumph at Shegaon, said it felt nice to train a SAI side at the Nationals. “Though SAI coaches like me have produced a lot of quality players, we rarely get the credit; I think the SAI’s decision to field its own teams is a great one,” said the coach attached to SAI, Thalassery, which contributed five players to the SAI team at Shegaon.

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