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Interview with Gurinder Singh: "Indian volleyball needs media support in a big way"

According to Singh, India has the talent to go far in volleyball, but the sport does not receive enough media or public support, and there is scope for a lot more work.

Former Indian volleyball captain Gurinder Singh, now a head constable in the Punjab Police

Gurinder Singh has waged many battles wearing the Indian jersey on the volleyball court. The former Indian captain was part of the team that stunned the mighty Japan in the league phase of the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and also featured in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, where India’s spikers finished 5th, matching the fifth-place finish they achieved at the 2002 Busan Asian Games.

Singh, currently a head constable with the Punjab Police, spoke about Indian volleyball in an exclusive interview.

You missed the recent Asian Volleyball Championships held in Tehran, Iran, where the national side finished 11th going into the event with a largely youthful side?

I had to give the Asian Volleyball Championships a miss as I was down with a knee injury. It will take me a month or so to get back into competitive action. I have started running and will gradually get back to hitting the volleyball drills.

You have led the national men’s volleyball side for a fairly long time and also took part in two Asian Games – the 2010 and 2014 editions. What’s your take on Indian volleyball?

I think Indian volleyball is moving up. We finished fifth in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games – which was a remarkable achievement – remember, we had finished sixth in the 2010 Asiad. We were pitted against Asia’s top side, Iran, in our pool and although we lost in straight sets all three sets went down to the wire. We lost to Korea and Japan but not before putting up a fight. We lost to Qatar in the play-off round but beat them in the classification tie to take the fifth spot with a close five-setter win.

You were part of the 2010 Asian Games team that stunned gold medallists Japan in the league phase.

The win against Japan in the league phase was a new high for us, as beating one of Asia’s top teams is always good for a team’s morale and development. Japan went on to win the gold medal in the 2010 Asiad and again in the 2014 Asiad we met them in the quarterfinals. We lost fighting 2-3.

Indian volleyball team does not seem to be playing the world’s top teams regularly. How important it to play these teams on a consistent basis?

I think for Indian volleyball to go to the next level it is imperative that we play the world’s top teams frequently, as this can really help us match their game. European teams or even South Americans play differently from the Asian teams, so it important that we play them. Playing lesser-ranked sides will be of no help to us as only the lesser-ranked teams benefit. Indian volleyball has the potential to go places.

Do you think volleyball is popular across the country and just concentrated in a few pockets?

Volleyball is popular in India, just that there is not enough media coverage of volleyball and I feel the media must support the sport in a big way. Volleyball is quite popular in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka besides Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan. Volleyball infrastructure is in place across the country, but there is scope for a lot more work to be done.

How is the job scene for volleyball players in the country?

Well, jobs are there for volleyball players but not many in the Northern part, except for Punjab Police, where I’m employed. Most jobs are in the southern region. Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Railways are some public sector entities hiring volleyball players. The job scene is not that bad for men spikers but for women spikers there weren’t many jobs on offer. More women should also be employed.

India are ranked 39th in the world – do you think the team can climb up the rankings ladder?

As I said before we need to play the world’s top teams frequently and also play Asia’s top four sides like Iran, Korea, China and Japan. Iran is world number 10, while Korea is world number 15, China 16 and Japan 21. Playing top teams on a regular basis will help us develop our game and move up in rankings.

The Indian Volleyball League (IVL) kickstarted in 2011 and has not been held since then. What are your thoughts?

I do not have any information about it but yes, the IVL was a huge boost for Indian volleyball. The game will kept alive if more money is poured into the sport and the IVL has the potential to do that. Look at the Pro Kaabaddi League – how it has attained popularity due to superb television coverage by Star Sports. Such kind of league and proper television coverage will do a world of good to Indian volleyball. Indian volleyball needs PFL-like coverage.

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