Another Indian sport that is set to walk the franchise league path in the country is volleyball. The inaugural edition of the RuPay Pro Volleyball League 2019 will commence from 2nd February 2019 at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Kochi, Kerala.
Six franchises will be taking part in the first season of the league and they carefully stitched together their squads in December 2018 at the player auction. 117 Indian players went under the hammer and six marquee international players were signed up using the draft format.
Indian setter, Ranjit Singh became the highest buy of the RuPay Pro Volleyball League's inaugural auction. He was snapped by the Ahmedabad Defenders for Rs. 13 lakhs, with Prabhagaran Sinnadhu being the second highest buy at Rs. 12 lakhs, signed by the Kochi Blue Spikers.
U Mumba Volley picked up the third-highest buy of the auction when they bought Deepesh Kumar Sinha, the Indian national blocker to their squad.
U Mumba Volley team is owned by USports, the company headed by Ronnie Screwvala, who also owns the Pro Kabaddi League franchise, U Mumba. In addition to Deepesh Kumar Sinha, U Mumba Volley drafted Croatian-Turkish attacker Tomislav Coskovic on the auction day.
The U Mumba side is a good mixture of youth and experience with the squad lined up as - four attackers, three blockers, two setters and universals and one libero.
We take a look at how the team from the shores of Mumbai shapes up ahead of the season:
International Icon Player - Tomislav Coskovic
Tomislav Coskovic is the international player drafted by the U Mumba Volley side at the player auction and will play an instrumental role in the season ahead. With his tall frame and wealth of experience, the outside hitter's abilities to outfox opponents with his power and timing will prove critical for the success of the U Mumba side. He has played in various countries across the world such as Austria, Greece, Russia, Croatia, Italy, France and Turkey.
Nicholas Del Bianco is the second foreign player in the U Mumba Volley squad who joined after the auction. Del Bianco is a Canadian wing-spiker who has excelled for his university team, Trinity Western University and was named Canadian Inter-university Sports Men's Volleyball Player of the Year in 2015. He has been a part of the Canadian indoor as well as the beach volleyball teams.
Del Bianco moved abroad to play in Germany, France and has played the last three seasons for Lausanne UC in Switzerland. He is famed for his pressure hits and tactical approach to the game.
Pankaj Sharma is a 21-year old attacker who has played for the Indian national junior sides and picked up the sport after being inspired by his father who played at the state level. Pankaj joined the Indian Army in 2011 through the sports quota and has played for the Forces since then. He was a part of the 2018 Asian Games squad of the Indian national team.
Hardeep Singh hails from the state of Punjab and started playing the game after being encouraged by his cousin, who was a state level player. He joined the Sports Authority of India, Punjab team after clearing the trials in 2009 and later joined Punjab Police as a player in 2011.
Deepesh Kumar Sinha, the big-ticket buy of the U Mumba Volley side at the auctions will be the key blocker for the side. He has been handed the role of the captain of the team and will aim to use his experience to good use.
Sinha grew up in the Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh amidst Naxal tensions but made his way into the national side in 2010, featuring for the Youth team. He has played for the Indian senior side since 2015 and is employed by the Chhatisgarh District Police.
Prince is one of the youngest members of the U Mumba squad who will feature alongside Sinha as a blocker. He started playing the game in 2012 and competed in the Asian Championship 2018 in Bahrain.
John Joseph EJ is the third blocker in the side and at 19 years of age, is the youngest player in the U Mumba Volley side. He started out as an athletics player in SAI but switched over to volleyball upon the insistence of the coach at the institute. He featured in the Junior Nationals in 2018.
Saqlain Tariq is the lone player from the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the entire RuPay Pro Volleyball League 2019. Tariq moved to the state of Punjab to focus on his volleyball training and currently plays for the ONGC side. His experience will be key for the U Mumba side especially taking into account the importance of the setter position.
Parshant Saroha is the second setter in the U Mumba Volley squad and has featured for the youth Indian team since 2012, competing in Asian Championships. Saroha also plays for the ONGC side and will aim to make an impact alongside Tariq for U Mumba.
Vinit Kumar, the highly experienced universal is one of the key components of the U Mumba Volley squad and has been handed the role of vice-captain. He has featured for teams such as Railways, ONGC and SAF at the national level. Kumar was a part of the Asian Games 2018 squad along with Deepesh Sinha and Pankaj Sharma from U Mumba.
Shubham Chaudhary is the second universal in the U Mumba Volley squad and hails from the state of Haryana. He picked up the game from his father, who was a university level player and coach. Chaudhary features for the Income Tax Department team from Pune and played in the Qatar League in 2018.
Akshay Kapta is the libero of the U Mumba Volley side and took up the position after initially starting out as an attacker. His lack of height made him switch to libero and he occupies the spot for the Indian Postal Service.
U Mumba Volley side is being coached by Pritam Singh Chauhan who has been a coach at the Sports Authority of India for many years. He will be assisted by Naresh alongside him as the team hopes to start out on a strong note.
U Mumba Volley Full Squad
Nicholas Del Bianco, Tomislav Coskovic, Hardeep Singh, Pankaj Sharma, Deepesh Sinha, John Joseph EJ, Prince, Saqlain Tariq, Parshant Saroha, Akshay Kapta, Vinit Kumar, Shubham Chaudhary.
U Mumba has become a well-known name across the country due to their exploits in the Kabaddi world. U Mumba Volleyball will aim to emulate their sister side with a good showing as well.
The U Mumba Volley side has capitalized on the trend of the popular online game PUBG and featured in matches along with their fellow sides U Mumba, U Mumba FC and U Cypher to reach out to the young audience online.