Updated: September 19, 2021 7:20:13 pm
India exacted revenge over Bahrain in the clash for the ninth place of the 21st Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship which concluded at Funabashi Arena, Chiba in Japan on Sunday.
In a marathon match that lasted two hours and 19 minutes, Indian spikers brushed past Bahrain 25-16, 25-23, 20-25, 25-20, 16-14 in an edge-of-the-seat thriller. Aswal Rai (24), Subham Chaudhary (19), and Vinit Jerome (18) were the best scorers for India.
Later, Iran defended well against hosts Japan 27-25, 25-22, 31-29 to win their fourth continental title. However, both the finalists will qualify for the 2022 FIVB men’s world championship in Russia.
Last Sunday, in the Group A match opener, the same rivals Bahrain stunned India 25-27, 21-25, 21-25 played at Chiba Arena. India then lost to Qatar, ranked 20th, 22-25, 14-25, 20-25, and Japan, ranked 11th in the world, 15-25, 15-25, 18-25 in their other league matches played at Chiba Port Arena.
In the 9 to 16 classification matches, they beat Kuwait 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 on Thursday and Uzbekistan 25-19, 25-13, 25-22 on Friday and they overcame Saudi Arabia 25-22, 25-22, 25-23 in the 9-12 classification match on Saturday.
India, coached by legendary GE Sridharan, are now placed 71th in the FIVB world rankings while Bahrain are 80th in the latest list.
In the 2019 edition, India were placed eighth. An eighth place would have helped the team enter the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games next year. India’s best performance came in 2005 when they lost the bronze medal match to South Korea and in Asiad, they were bronze medallists in 1986.
Speaking to indianexpress.com from Chiba after the classification match, coach Sridharan was relieved. “We arrived here with a 30-odd day camp and without any competition due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That way the boys played well and the majority (eight) are newcomers while only six of the seniors have international exposure. I don’t have complaints, they played to their potential.
“In the pool matches we could have won against Bahrain and Qatar but for some forgettable errors cost us. We’re competing after more than 500 days break,” he added.
The 16-team championship included South Korea who have won four times, two-time China and Australia apart from Pakistan, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka.
“One should remember volleyball is played in over 200 countries around the world and in Asia alone 65 countries play and to reach this level (ninth place) is no mean thing,” Sridharan said.
For 2022 Asiad, the coach felt India should play at 30 to 40 international Test matches. The nationals will be held soon and the Volleyball Federation of India is coming up with a league soon apart from the one launched last week Prime Volley League.
“After the nationals, we’ll have a pool of 30 players who will play only Test matches against higher-ranked teams. I’m sure India will be invited to tour in Europe too and we can also play in Japan or South Korea. If that happens I’m sure Indians will climb the podium once more,” Sridharan concluded.
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