Volleyball is all set to make a grand entry into the Indian sporting ecosystem with the RuPay Pro Volleyball League kicking off on 2nd February, 2019. This will mark the first edition of a volleyball league at the national level, and in a fine manner. The league will begin with matches being played at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Kochi, Kerala until 13th February.
RuPay Pro Volleyball League auction was held in the month of December last year and saw 117 players from India go under the hammer. Six foreign internationals were also a part of the auction but were picked up by franchises through the draft system.
Indian setter, Ranjit Singh emerged as the top buy at the RPVL auction, having been snapped up by the Ahmedabad Defenders for an enormous sum of Rs. 13 lakhs.
The second biggest buy of the auction was Prabhagran S, who was brought home by the Kochi Blue Spikers for a massive price of Rs. 12 lakhs.
Kochi Blue Spikers is one of the six franchises of the RuPay Pro Volleyball League for the inaugural season. The team is owned by Thomas Muthoot of the Muthoot Pappachan Group, who are also the jersey sponsors of Indian Super League franchise, Kerala Blasters FC.
Kochi Blue Spikers settled on the highly experienced American international, David Lee in the foreign player draft at the auction.
The team has a good mix of international and national players and consists of four attackers, three blockers, two setters and universals each, along with one libero. Below, we take a look at how the team stacks up against its competitors for the season ahead.
International Icon Player - David Lee (United States of America)
Famed international volleyball player, David Lee will be a part of the Kochi Blue Spikers after he was chosen in the draft on the auction day. Lee brings a wealth of experience to the Spikers having played for the American national side since 2003.
He was a part of the American squad that won the gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and also of the bronze medal-winning team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Lee has played in various leagues throughout the world with his latest stint being with UPCN Volley Club in Argentina. He will be a vital component of the Kochi Blue Spikers squad filling the blocker position.
Prabhagran Sinnadhu, the costliest buy in the auction for the side, is the key man on the attacking front for the Kochi Blue Spikers. He was the highest spikes converting player for the Indian side at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
Prabhagran captained the Indian national side for the first time at the 2015 Asian Volleyball Championship held in Tehran, Iran. Amongst his plaudits earned is the 'Best attacker' award when India lost out to South Korea in the 2014 Men's Volleyball Championship.
Andrej Patuc is the second foreigner signed by the Kochi Blue Spikers and hails from the European nation of Slovakia. With a big frame of 202 cm, he has the promise of a strong spike from the court and will be a key asset alongside Prabhagaran.
Sujoy Datta has been a part of the Indian U-20 volleyball team and top-scored for the side at the 2018 Asian Men's U20 Volleyball Championship. Suresh Khoiwal is another youngster who could make an impact for the Kochi side from the bench along with Datta.
Mujib is a 23-year old youngster who hails from Kozhikode in the state of Kerala and will be aiming to make an impression alongside star player, David Lee. He has been coached by G E Sridharan, former volleyball player, and Arjuna Award recipient.
Rohit P is the third blocker in the Kochi Blue Spikers camp and will bring his international experience for the Indian side to the table. He was the captain of the national side in 2015 and plays the role of a middle blocker in the squad.
Mohan Ukkrapandian is perhaps the best player in the setter position across the nation and he currently captains the Indian national side. He made his debut for the country in 2007 and works for the Indian Overseas Bank.
Ukkrapandian is regarded as a calm, composed figure on the court and rightly so, will be the captain of the Kochi Blue Spikers, who will aim to use his experience over the years to their utmost benefit.
Ankur Singh is the youngest member of the Kochi squad at the age of 18 and will hope to gather as much knowledge as he can from Ukkrapandian and other members during the course of the season while obviously focussing on making his chances count whenever they come by.
Manu Joseph is the third player in the squad hailing from the state of Kerala and has been a mainstay of the side in the Senior National Volleyball Championships. He has captained the SAI team from Kerala and gone on to play for the Indian Railways in the nationals.
K Praveen Kumar is a young player in the Kochi side who has been a part of the Tamil Nadu state side competing in the Senior Nationals. He is deemed to be a strong server and could be a good option for the Blue Spikers.
The youngster Hari Prasad hails from the city of Bengaluru and will be the libero for the Blue Spikers this season. He was adjudged the Best Libero in the All India SAI Inter-Regional Championships.
Kochi Blue Spikers are under the watchful eyes of Jyothish T C, who hails from the town of Thrissur in Kerala and is a highly regarded coach in the Indian volleyball circuit. He has played for the Indian junior and senior teams back in the day and will aim to use his experience to guide the home side to glory.
Kochi Blue Spikers Full Squad
David Lee, Andrej Patuc, Suresh Khoiwal, Sujoy Datta, Prabhagaran Sinnadhu, Mujib, Rohit P, Mohan Ukkrapandian, Ankur Singh, Hari Prasad, Manu Joseph, K Praveen Kumar.
Coach - Jyotish T C
The state of Kerala has a strong love for the game of volleyball with the game being played all across the state, even in rural regions. The Kochi Blue Spikers decided to reach out to potential fans with a roadshow with the hashtag, #SpikersVan which made its way across various districts of the state.
The roadshow allowed the fans to interact with the players of the squad as well as get their hands on the merchandise of the team this season.