Then there were 3 - Ashwal Rai, Jerome Vinith downplay geographical representation of PVL semifinals
Kolkata Thunderbolts captain Ashwal Rai and Calicut Heroes captain Jerome Vinith are two of India's highest paid volleyball players. Only one of them will make it to the Prime Volleyball League final.
Three teams remain in contention in the Prime Volleyball League playoffs after three weeks of blocks, spikes and pancakes (the defensive shot appropriated as the dosa in the PVL commentary box) - Ahmedabad Defenders (west), Kolkata Thunderbolts (east) and Calicut Heroes (south).
Despite the dominance of players from southern India in the PVL and the fact that five of the seven teams are from the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana, it is fitting for the theme of inclusion that the last teams standing are from three geographical extremities of India. However, for the men in the middle of the battle, geography is unimportant.
"It's not about representing Kerala or south India. All the players want to prove themselves individually, whatever colours they are wearing. It will only be by standing out in these matches that we can set ourselves up for the next season," said Calicut captain Jerome.
Kolkata captain Ashwal Rai also downplayed the geographical significance of being the only team from eastern India. He said Sujoy Dutta, the lone Bengali player in the league, is one of many 'crazy' players who can make a difference from the bench.
"Vinit Kumar has been our star player and Riyazuddin has been the backbone of our team. Our bench also has many crazy players like the youngster Sujoy who are raring to go, I love playing with them," he said.
'PVL will be a 10-team league next year'
Jerome and Ashwal, two of three highest paid players in the league (Rs 15 lakh), will be on opposing sides of the net in the second semifinal at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad on Friday. On the line is a place in Sunday's final against Ahmedabad.
Ashwal missed a few matches in the second half of the season with an injury, but said he would not miss the semi for anything. Calicut Heroes will also have the services of David Lee for the crucial knockout match, Jerome informed.
Big changes for the semifinals include a review system against the referee's decisions and a change in the scoring pattern.
Both captains agreed that the hype around the PVL, while having lived up to expectations - Ashwal said he received calls from across the world from people he did not know after the auction - will be more beneficial to the younger players than established names like themselves.
"The knowledge that the PVL's younger players have received over the last few weeks is invaluable. They are learning professionalism, new techniques, how to take care of their bodies. This league offers a great future to the teenagers coming into the game," said Jerome.
"Next year we can hope the PVL will be a 10-team league. Chances for youngsters will keep growing," said Ashwal.
Watch RuPay Prime Volleyball League Semifinal 2 - Kolkata Thunderbolts vs Calicut Heroes - live on Sony Ten 1 (English), Sony Ten 3 (Hindi), Sony Ten 4 (Tamil and Telugu) and Sony Ten 2 (Malayalam) channels at 6:30 pm IST on February 25 2022