Tuesday, May 07, 2002
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By M.C. Raman
The IOB team which won the men's title in the National league volleyball championship at Tirupur on Sunday. Photo: K. Gajendran
Even before this exciting encounter commenced the stadium was jam-packed and the attendance exceeded 12,000. There was hardly any space to move about and some of the players had to stand and watch the final. Fortunately, there was no rain and the organisers heaved a sigh of relief.
IOB captured the Federation Cup in 2000 at Tuticorin. After that the Volleyball Federation of India decided to make the Cup for States and the National League for clubs. So IOB earned the distinction of being champion in both the events to assert its supremacy in the country.
IOB maintained a clean slate in the championship and despite its unimpressive start it regained its touch midway. And again in the final it had everything under control in the first two sets. Then it slipped before recovering well in the decider.
This rollercoaster ride was disturbing at times. IOB has the best attack, counter-attack and net defence. Yet the team tended to relax at times. This is a dangerous habit and Kochi Refineries, the most powerful attacking side in the country, cashed in on the rival's slackness in defence and rallied strongly.
Both teams depended mostly on second line attack. If it was Sivabalan for IOB, Ismail did a great job for the Kochi side. He played such a dominant role that even Tom Joseph was reduced to playing second fiddle.
IOB made a shaky start conceding a 1-4 lead in the first set, but managed to catch up at 23 on Harun Khan's service. At this stage Joby Joseph, who was brilliant in deceptive attack, steered the team to victory.
He cleverly changed his spiking action at the last moment and resorted to drops into vacant places. Manjunath and Rajesh did the bulk of the blocking. But in the third and fourth sets they were found wanting.
In the first four sets the race was pretty close and the team with the better finish prevailed. Having fought so well to make it two sets all, Refineries made a big mistake in not improving its defence.
In fact, Tom Joseph angled his shots superbly and threatened to narrow the lead in the decider, but IOB did not lose the grip this time and kept up the pressure on the rival to emerge winner, collecting Rs. one lakh as prize money. Kochi Refineries, which finished runner-up, received Rs. 50,000.
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