Monday, Apr 07, 2003
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By M.C. Raman
Australia's Christensen Za's (left) majestic smash is blocked effectively by China's Lei Wang and Baishun Sun (10), as Austin Philip watches after boosting the ball, in their Group B match of the fourth Asian youth volleyball championship in Visakhapatnam on Sunday. China won the match in five sets. Photo: K.R. Deepak
India, overwhelmed by the awe of taking part in such an international tournament, after stumbling at the starting block picked up its pace and game to crush Thailand at 25-27, 25-17, 25-17, 25-8 in Group A.
Qatar, prompted by some individual skills, like Ali's superb spiking, showed an underprepared Chine Taipei in poor light by winning 25-23, 27-25, 22-25, 25-19 in another Group A tie.
In Group B, defending champion Iran's `Big boys' with skills that looked beyond their age shut the door on DPR Korea at 25-19, 25-18, 25-15.
It has been a great start to this tournament. One wonders whether the senior teams would have given such a start to the Asian men's championship. Such was the enthusiasm and vibrancy seen in the games that were played on Sunday.
China raced to a two set lead and was pulling the rug away from under the long legs of the Aussies when the latter re-organised their game and tried to shut out the rivals with their strong block. But China was smarter than what Australia thought and got away in decider with quick finish and good placements.
Two Wangs set the court ablaze and China surged ahead because of them. Though Lei Wang played the part of a supportive attacker, it was Zhen Wang who was the most accomplished player on this day. His jump serves came like bullets. One wondered whether any one could have served like that in the World championships! Such was his power and consistency. He is just 196 cms, not a great height in modern volleyball. But his jump and attack rhythm is superb and he looks a natural.
China, which trailed by slender margins in the first and second sets, caught up with Australia and then outpaced the latter. From 12-13, China surged to 20-18 in the first set to wrap it up. Similarly, though it was trailing by five points in the second (16-25), it still rallied superbly to go two sets up.
If the Wangs were the spearhead, Zheng Sui, Baishun Sun and Deiwei Yu lent good support in attack and block.
It was in the third and fourth sets that one saw the Aussie recovery. The towering Christensen Za (207 cm) came into attack more and more and the Chinese found it difficult to stop him. Moran, Roberts, Joshum and Grant, who was a bit erratic, added to Australia's spiking strength and China was under tremendous pressure.
In the third set, China was completely overwhelmed by the block of Australia and conceded a 11-point lead before going down. But it was a close race in the fourth before China fumbled at 20-19 to let Australia fight its way through to make it 2-2.
However, China cashed in on Australia's shaky game like Moran's poor service in the final set and Za's good spiking to take the match.
The Indians took some time to settle down and its defence was shaky, while Thailand was in a hurry and did not let go the chance of moving ahead.
Wanchai spiked brilliantly. A short boy with impressive jump he packed too much power behind his shots and the Indian defenders found his shots too hot to handle. Teeradate and Shotivat, along with Weerapong, gave Thailand a head start (20-17).
Though India managed to catch up, Thailand, which was combining smoothly, gave the host a big jolt by taking that set.
However, India's game took a dramatic turn from the second game onwards. Its first pass became steady and its attack became sharp. Srikanth, Sanjay Kumar, Rathish and Dinesh Kumar kept up the pressure by hitting the short ball pretty well.
India took a 18-12 lead in the second set and 18-13 in the third to give a clear signal that the team had regained its rhythm and Thailand could not stopping the surging machine. In the fourth set India outplayed the rival after taking an 18-7 lead.
Said India's Chief coach G.E. Sridharan after the match "Players like setter Kamaraj are playing in an international tournament for the first time. They were overawed by the ambience. Our block also was not effective in the beginning. But Sanjay Kumar and Vikas Tomar blocked well in the later part of the game. I am happy they fought and came back to win".
Two players propped up Qatar. Ali Ahmed Yagoub was brilliant in hitting sharply even the away balls. Hassan and Aziz formed a good second line attack that lifted Qatar's game up against Chinese-Taipei, which played as if it was out of touch and looked disjointed.
Though Qatar's first pass was not good, the team managed because of its steady attack. Ali was there to rescue the team. Without much blocking strength Taipei was struggling to stop the rival at the net.
However in the third set it did well in attack as Tai, Lin and Chang kept up the pressure to take it with some strong block. But Qatar bounced back with better block and attack.
Iran was impressive with fast attack, quick finish and excellent rhythm. It had depth in attack too. Soleymani, Sadeghiyani and Salehi spiked with good control and the tall Ranjbar Medi was there for net defence and short ball attack.
Setter Behza was quick and sharp in boosting and he made it a real attacking force with his intelligent setting. Iran virtually overwhelmed the rival with its quick and neat game and DPR Korea did not have that much attack to challenge the rival. Even its main spiker Ju Ryong was erratic at times and its block was weak.
Monday's matches: Thailand v Taipei (1 p.m.), Australia v DPR Korea (3 p.m.), Korea v Iran (5 p.m).
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