Railways stretched by Delhi

CHAUTALA (Haryana) NOV. 24. Defending champion Railways never expected Delhi to match its wits. The final scoreline might look very simple, but Delhi gave Railways a fight that the champion would remember for some time.

Spearheaded by internationals Kapil Dev and Sunil Kumar, Railways lived by the wire in all the three sets before winning its Group `A' opening match 25-20, 25-21, 25-19, in the 51st National volleyball championship here on Sunday night.

Delhi started well and went neck-and-neck before Railways opened up a 13-10 lead in the first set. Sunil Kumar and P. S. Shrikant scored crucial points to force Delhi on the backfoot.

In the decider, Sivarajan served some aces to put Railways on top before Kapil Dev gave Railways the matchpoint. It wasted it before closing the issue 25-19.

Orissa rode on the brilliance of Athar Raza and quelled a spirited Jammu and Kashmir 3-2, in the morning session at the Youth Club Stadium here.

Spiker Raza was the most active player around the net while Kannan and Prasanna backed him well as Orissa twice recovered from a piquant situation. It lost the first set 21-25, but fought back to level scores. A mix of local and Punjab players, Jammu and Kashmir made a match of its Group `E' encounter by snatching away the third set 26-24.

But it could hardly sustain the momentum and allowed Orissa to claw back. Raza and Prasanna executed their plan well and Orissa raced to win the next two 25-18, 15-13.

Mud courts may not be the best to breed talent. Especially at the Nationals where top players are on the show. Injury is a major factor on these surfaces. Consequently, the dives that add colour to any volleyball match are rarely seen.

Though outdoor courts may not be new to players, it requires sincere efforts from the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) to have a level-playing field for all class of competition. Wrestling has literally achieved it, and it is high time other sports realise the necessity of uniformity.

When Uttaranchal took on Gujarat, there was a promise of a good action with internationals Y. Subba Rao and Avinash Kumar Yadav appearing for the hill state.

If Uttaranchal won its Group `D' match in straight sets, 25-14, 25-12, 25-14, it was because of its sheer superiority. There were no extravagant saves or exciting blocks. Setter R. Kamraj did his job well while S.A. Rahul and Mithilesh spiked well ending the proceedings in 49 minutes.

On the other hand, Gujarat had no libero to take care of its backcourt. As such, the tired Gujarat players were no match to the well-prepared Uttaranchal for which Bal Krishna and B.M. Rao also excelled.

In the women's section, defending champion Railways got a walkover from Arunachal Pradesh, which failed to report. Goan women also gave a skip to the tournament, which reduced the draw to a 22-team field. Last year's runner-up, Kerala, was the beneficiary in Group `B'. In the same group, Chandigarh beat Bihar 3-0 to earn two crucial points. Jagroop Kaur did most of the scoring for Chandigarh.

Madhya Pradesh lived on dangerously before scripting an excellent 3-2 victory against Uttar Pradesh in Group `A' league match. Madhya Pradesh won the first set 25-23, but Uttar Pradesh fought brilliantly by grabbing the next two 25-19, 25-14.

Madhya Pradesh saved a matchpoint before winning the fourth at 26-24 with A. Nazkar doing well at the net. Madhya Pradesh had a little difficulty in wrapping up the encounter winning the decider 15-10.

Raj Kumari and Vinodini starred for Bengal in a Group `A' match which the easterners won 3-0.

The results: Men: Group A: Railways bt Delhi 25-20, 25-21, 25-19. Group D: Uttaranchal bt Gujarat 25-14, 25-12, 25-14. Group E: Andhra Pradesh bt Goa 25-18, 23-25, 25-15, 25-12; Orissa bt Jammu and Kashmir 21-25, 25-17, 24-26, 25-18, 15-13. Group F: Chandigarh bt Arunachal Pradesh 25-10, 25-11, 25-15.

Women: Group A: Railways w/o Arunachal Pradesh; West Bengal bt Gujarat 25-5, 25-9, 25-15; Madhya Pradesh bt Uttar Pradesh 25-23, 19-25, 14-25, 26-24, 15-10. Group B: Kerala w/o Goa; Chandigarh bt Bihar 25-14, 25-16, 25-21.