The 65-year-old head coach also discussed the plans ahead for the club.
Ahmedabad Defenders defeated Bengaluru Torpedoes (3-2) to claim the Prime Volleyball League 2 title. Ahmedabad finished as runner-up in the inaugural season but went one step further this time to win the trophy. They have qualified for the World Club Championships to be held in India in December 2023. Head coach Dakshinamoorthy Sundaresan is one of the most respected coaches in Indian Volleyball. The 65-year-old has trained several players (35+) who have gone on to represent the National side.
Khel Now got an opportunity to interact with Ahmedabad Defenders coach Dakshinamoorthy Sundaresan.
Thoughts on the season
Eight teams took part in the Prime Volleyball League season 2 with Mumbai Meteors being the latest entrant. Almost all teams played to their potential but it was Ahmedabad Defenders who went on to lift the title after missing out in the inaugural season.
The head coach said, “All eight teams had equal standards. Overall the team which made fewer unforced errors won the match. Due to service errors, we lost the opening match to Hyderabad Black Hawks (2-3). We had 3 to 4 days time for the next match so we looked after the defects and rectified them and won against Bengaluru Torpedoes. In the opening encounter, we tried a foreign youngster (Universal – Andrew Kohut from the USA ) which didn’t work out, so I brought in Angamuthu which clicked.”
“Also, I wanted the team to win all three matches in the Hyderabad leg so that we do not fall under pressure in Kochi (final league stage). We won the penultimate league game in Kochi but lost to Kolkata in the final league game. Thought the players lacked physical fitness due to the high humidity. I motivated the players ahead of the playoffs and the players were ready for the challenge.”
“This time we had three weeks of pre-season at SRM University. Last time Foreign players joined us directly at the group stages but this time they came directly to the pre-season which benefitted us.”
Changes from the previous season
Ahmedabad started their pre-season early this time and the foreign players arrived in time for the training. They retained three players ahead of the auctions and the coach knew about the rest of the players pretty well.
Dakshinamoorthy Sundaresan iterated, “Last year many saw us as an underdog and did not give us much importance. But when we slowly started winning games many got to know about the talent we possess and started looking at us. We finished the inaugural season as runner-up and came into this season with high expectations. The standard of this season was high with not much difference.”
Plans ahead of the Club Championships in December
Ahmedabad Defenders qualified for the 2023 World Club Championships which is set to be held in December in India (dates to be confirmed).
“Fitness trainers played a vital role in both seasons. I asked them to take good care of the players. Going ahead we have planned zoom meetings every 15 days to understand what players are doing and will be supervising them. Almost all the players play for their respective departments which they cannot refuse so they need to be careful going forward (without getting injured). We retained Shon T John this season but unfortunately, he couldn’t participate due to an injury. We do not want the players to get injured ahead of major tournaments,” he added.
Importance of winning the PVL title
Dakshinamoorthy Sundaresan has won several accolades in the past and has groomed many players from Tamil Nadu. This was the only major trophy missing from his cabinet and now he has won the title.
The 65-year-old opined, “I got an opportunity to coach the Mumbai franchise (2019 Pro Volleyball League) but couldn’t accept the offer. Ahmedabad Defenders approached me ahead of Prime Volleyball League last year and I accepted the offer. I had to prove to people who criticised me before and would thank my players for winning the title this time. This is a great achievement in my coaching career”
Importance of foreign players in PVL
The head coach specified the importance of foreign players and said, “Daniel from Iran is a professional player and he maintained good fitness, diet, recovery, and timing throughout the league. Indian players aren’t aware of the recovery process if injured which is very important for a professional player. Sports science has helped foreign players develop across the world but in India, coaches have to teach players everything which is slowly changing now. Foreign players are very professional and have good technical skills which the Indian players need to learn going forward.”
Prior experience of working with the squad
Eight of the 14 players in the squad have trained under Dakshinamoorthy Sundaresan before. This has been a major boost for Ahmedabad this season winning the title.
The head coach quipped, “Eight of the 14 players have trained under me. I ask players to train well and put in good hard work. Performance matters the most rather than winning or losing. Having already finished runner-up last season, we set up good expectations and needed to be accountable. The players took my words seriously and played accordingly. Muthusamy led the team well while Angamuthu helped in coordinating with other players.”
“Assistant coach Kamaraj was helpful in coordinating with the players as he knew Hindi. He used to talk to players constantly and helped them understand their roles ahead of all the matches.”
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Happy for players from other teams
Dakshinamoorthy Sundaresan was happy to see other players perform well and iterated, “It was good to see Mohan Ukkrapandian get back to form after having a below-average season last year. He won the best setter award. Prasanth won the MVP (Most Valuable Player) award and put in his best this season. Libero Ramanathan of Chennai Blitz was awarded the best libero and he proved himself on the big stage,” he added.
Overall growth of Indian Volleyball
India has a good set of volleyball players but they lack exposure and experience which has hurt the national team. There have been internal conflicts among the Federation which hasn’t helped the cause.
The 65-year-old said, “There has been inconsistency for the past five years in the national setup due to various reasons. The players did not get enough opportunities to prove themselves. After the commencement of the Prime Volleyball League, players know about the talent they possess and their potential. FIVB secretary during the final said, India possesses good talents and will support the players.”
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