TR Sethu also discussed his career and the National Games 2022 victory.
The Prime Volleyball League PVL season 2 has started off in grand fashion and the bandwagon has now shifted to the second leg at Hyderabad. Bengaluru Torpedoes finished in fifth position just outside the playoffs spot and the inaugural season had only seven teams participating. Bengaluru Torpedoes have retained three players (Midhun Kumar, Vinayak Rokhade and captain Pankaj Sharma).
Vinayak Rokhade was one of the 18 Indian players to participate in the Maldives premier league in 2022 from Bengaluru Torpedoes. The southern side is currently placed in the fourth spot after having played three matches.
Khel Now got an opportunity to interview the captain Pankaj Sharma and TR Sethu.
Pankaj Sharma has been appointed the captain in the second season and was an integral part of the Bengaluru squad in the inaugural edition. He was brought for 7.5 lakhs with the base price at 4 lakhs. He was also part of the Indian Volleyball team at the 2018 Asian Games.
Experience playing the first season
Pankaj Sharma was an important member of the team and got the opportunity to play alongside foreign players like Noah Taitano and Kyle Friend in the first season.
“The first season wasn’t great but a good one overall. If you look at my performance it was good barring a few poor matches. The team couldn’t make it to the finals which was disappointing,” he added.
Father’s influence in taking up the sport
Pankaj’s father was a state-level volleyball player and the family played an important role in his career. He took up the sport upon the insistence of his physical education teacher.
Pankaj stated, “I took up volleyball pretty late maybe in class 9. My school physical education teacher called and told me to hit a few shots. Looking at my play the coach asked me to attend training the next day. My father has supported me since the beginning and has also trained me.”
About foreigners playing in PVL
A total of two foreigners were allowed to be part of each squad. The style of play from foreign players is different to those played by the Indians and many youngsters took this as a platform along with Pankaj to learn from experienced foreign players who have won several trophies.
Pankaj Sharma added the importance of foreign players taking part in the PVL and said, “The foreign players have a slightly different style compared to Indian players. The attacking and defending play along with positioning also changes. We get to learn something different from experienced foreign players.”
Any different strategies deployed in PVL
Volleyball is generally played for 25 points along with five sets. But in PVL to fasten the game the organizers have reduced the points to 15. All five sets have to be played mandatorily even if any team wins the match before are a few changes.
The captain opined, “Generally, each set is played for 25 points but in PVL it is reduced to 15. Yes, we adapt to different strategies with 15 points and have to deal with extra pressure. Also if any team has a good service player then he alone can take away two to three points which might be sufficient to win the set.”
Experience training under foreign coach
David Lee is one of the most iconic players in the volleyball circuit and has been part of the USA national team for 13 years. He has won one Olympic gold medal (Beijing) and a bronze medal (Rio) each. This will be David Lee’s first stint as a coach having already represented Kochi as a player in Pro Volleyball League.
“It has been a good experience training under David Lee. We have been used to playing under an Indian coach since the start of our career and Lee is bringing in slight changes to our techniques in terms of defence (blocking) and attacking. All the players are getting to learn something new and if the players have their basics right then it will be easy to learn quickly,” he added.
Sethu is an emerging talent from Kerala and was recently part of the gold medal-winning team at the National Games. He represented Kochi in the inaugural edition and will now play for Bengaluru Torpedoes. Sethu is best known for his service games.
Thoughts on winning 2022 National Games
Kerala emerged as the champions in the 2022 National Games defeating heavyweights and defending champions Tamil Nadu (3-1). In the previous edition in 2015, Tamil Nadu defeated Kerala. Both Tamil Nadu and Kerala enjoy good rivalry among themselves at any major tournament.
Sethu on the importance of winning the National Games said, “It was a surreal experience playing in the National Games. We lost in the first match but came back strongly winning the next few matches without losing a set.”
Sethu iterated, “I took up volleyball when I was in class six and it was my brother who took me to the nearby club and made me train there. Two years later represented my school team and slowly started to emerge in the sub-junior and junior categories.”
Adapting to play for different franchises
TR Sethu played for Kochi Blue Spikers in the inaugural edition and was brought by Bengaluru Torpadoes in the second edition for a hefty sum making him one of the costliest buys in the Prime Volleyball League.
“It is not difficult because I pretty much know the majority of players here. We have played together at different times so I got to gel pretty quickly,” he added.
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