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Ranjit Singh strives for big smashes after muscle-roasting police training

From leading India to winning the Asian Cup silver to playing PVL, Ranjit Singh has witnessed the evolution of volleyball. The Hyderbad Black Hawks skipper now aspires to get his place back in the Indian team, making a mark in PVL.

Ranjit Singh strives for big smashes after muscle-roasting police training

Hyderabad Black Hawks captain Ranjit Singh is playing in the Prime Volleyball League after missing the second season due to training with the Punjab Police. (Photo credit: Special Arrangement) 


Sudipta Biswas

Published: 29 Feb 2024 1:08 PM GMT

Hyderabad Black Hawks captain Ranjit Singh does not want to rule out a late 'comeback' to the Indian team. He is happy and grateful to the Black Hawks for giving him a chance to redeem his fallen career after three years of exile from the game.

Ranjit's career has been disrupted by three unforeseen breaks since 2020.

While the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 saw the Sub Inspector being summoned by Punjab Police to be on the line of duty, he had to deal with a strange situation a couple of years later - Punjab Police urged him to complete his training, else his promotion would have been halted - when he was contemplating to get back his prime place in the senior national team.

"Earlier I was working with ONGC and then joined the Punjab Police in 2017. In 2020, my last tour with the Indian team was in China. After that the pandemic disrupted everything. For one year, I was away from volleyball. My future became uncertain. It was such a bad time," said Ranjit.

"After that came the first season of PVL in 2022. I made a comeback by joining the Bengaluru Torpedoes. In the police department, there is a policy for mandatory training, else I will not get promotions. So between volleyball and training, I had to choose the latter," he added.

"My season with Bengaluru Torpedoes got over in March and I joined the training in June for a year. But during that nine-month training, I was told that if I have to continue playing I have to complete the second training - that was for three months," apprised Ranjit.

Ranjit Singh in action during a PVL match

In 2023, extra training meant Ranjit's comeback to mainstream volleyball got only longer.

"But I never gave up. I always believed that nothing is impossible to achieve," stated Ranjit.

"It was tough for me to make a comeback after that. The muscle building, the workout, and the training system are completely different in police training from the one we are familiar with in volleyball. Fortunately, Hyderabad Black Hawks has retained me for the third season," said the former India captain.

"It had been difficult two years for me. Hyderabad Black Hawks had picked me up for the next two seasons. I could not play in the second season. But as my contract was for two years, I have returned to play in the PVL," he added.

Black Hawks has a viable logic to back him up. Ranjit, a setter, brings copious of experience on board.

In his senior career, Ranjit made 50 appearances for the Indian team since he graduated from the senior team in 2012 at 22.

Among his remarkable feats with the national team, the most notable is the silver medal at the 2014 Asian Volleyball Cup as a captain. He also represented India at the Incheon Asian Games and Asian Championships.

"For a setter, experience becomes handy. During a close match, where to pass the ball and whom to take my confidence is a call that comes with experience and understanding of your teammates. And for my position, fitness plays an immense role," he remarked.

Comeback was never easy

Although the Black Hawks management showed faith in Ranjit's immense experience, it was never easy for the player to get back to the court. It was especially due to the nature of the police training.

"The training in the police is different from what we do in volleyball," asserted Ranjit.

"In volleyball, muscle development is important. For that, we do gym training. The training and parade in the police training are very heavy. As a result, the muscle becomes weak. Hence, after such energy-sapping training, it became difficult for me to make a comeback," explained the player, who hails from the Tarn Taran district of Punjab.

However, as he is now back in the PVL Season 3, Ranjit, as a captain is upright about his role in the team.

"Our camp started on January 15 in Visakhapatnam. We prepared well. This time, we have a foreign coach (Zoran Kedacic). It is a challenge for him. It is a game of 15 points. And then there are two super points during a game. To take a call on whether to go for the super point or not, he consults me. Apart from that, being a senior player it is my job to motivate the team," he added.

Captain Ranjit Singh celebrating with teammates with a win in the PVL.

Though Ranjit is 33, the setter still nurtures the wish to play for India.

"I will continue to play till I feel like playing. I will maintain myself so that I can play more matches in the Prime. This season I will try to give my best. I can now focus more on the game as my training with the Punjab Police is over. I know if I maintain myself and do well, I can be recalled to the Indian camp," he said.

But Ranjit remained grounded about such possibilities.

"My break from the game was long. This year too it was a big challenge for me to play in the PVL after two years, and that too as a captain of Hyderabad. Hyderabad supported me a lot. This was the third time I was making a comeback to professional volleyball. When there is a break, it affects a person's body and the game. Still, I will continue to try and strive for a place in the Indian team," affirmed Ranjit.

Yet, Ranjit, knows well how difficult it will be for him to become a chosen one again among thousands of players.

But for him and his generation, volleyball was never about striving for success or finding a place in the Indian team; it was just an avenue to find a government job and a secure life.

"India has a huge population and there are thousands of players in the country. In every village, volleyball is played. So, finding a job was the motivation to play volleyball. And then if you are playing in the Indian team, you get a promotion," he admitted.

"Getting opportunities is difficult. I was lucky to get into the Indian camp in 2008. I got a chance to prove myself. Gradually, I came into the senior team camp," said Ranjit.

The inspiration

Ranjit was a carefree boy. He enjoyed volleyball and played it only to win the village championship, where he used to crave a 'coveted prize' - currency notes. The wish to take the sport as a profession bloomed much later in him.

"My elder brother Simarjit Singh was a volleyball player, and he is in the Army. Playing for Punjab in the national championship and representing India make people proud. I saw people from my village playing at the highest level. So slowly I became serious. I started thinking that if I get a chance, I should utilise that. And if I am performing better, why should I not march forward?" asked Ranjit.

His selection to the Indian team was 'accidental' and dramatic.

"I was not even aware that there was a selection trial for the youth team in Visakhapatnam. I was in my village. A friend asked to come to Delhi. From there, somehow I reached Visakhapatnam," said Ranjit.

"At the camp, there were 400-500 players, and the trials were held for two days. Only 36 players were to be selected," said Ranjit.

"It was difficult for even coaches to judge good or bad players in such a short time. They wanted to select six setters, five were already confirmed. I thought I would not be selected. I was sitting on the staircase. But suddenly a lady official from Andhra asked people to call the setter from Punjab. I was summoned. Only four players were there in the trials in my position and I was selected," he added.

"Among six setters, I was the sixth. So it was a big challenge for me to find a spot in the Indian team," uttered Ranjit.

For a player, who never dreamt of playing for India, when the moment came to express his feeling of leading the team to the international glory, Ranjit struggled, "I cannot express the feeling of representing India in words. For a person, who did not know where Visakhapatnam was, getting the Indian jersey for the first time was amazing. I think it was a result of dedication and hard work. And when you get the thing you wanted, you always nurture that thing as special."

Ranjit's journey with the Indian team started with the youth team as a 17-year-old. Two years after his senior team debut, Ranjit was given the captaincy. Under his leadership, India competed at the 2014 Asian Games and secured a silver medal at the Asian Volleyball Cup.

PVL ingrains professionalism

Ranjit, meanwhile, is happy about the arrival of the Prime Volleyball League as it creates a culture that bodes well for India.

"When there was no professional league in India, job was the only source of motivation for the players. Due to the arrival of the PVL, players are now feeling financially safe. There is stability. At the same time, players are getting recognised. They are displaying their talent on the big screen. Media is giving coverage to the event," he said.

But Ranjit is regretful about the former players who made volleyball richer but retired poor.

"This league should have started much earlier but better late than never. Financially, players want to be stable. But many players played local matches and did not get anything. Now PVL is helping players to be stable in their career," he said.

"For upcoming players, it is a big platform. They are showing their talent here and getting selected. If any player does well and is not selected for the Indian team, people raise their voices," he opined.

In terms of increasing the players' pool, PVL is also proving to be a boon.

"Those who are in the Indian players – that is only 12 to 14 players. But for the remaining players, there were no tournaments and no platform to play earlier. Hence, they did not have any goals. In Prime Volleyball, there are nine teams and 14 players are playing in each team.

So it is helping India to build a large talent pool. Now, when the PVL season is over players maintain their fitness to play well in the PVL. They know if they play well, their price will also shoot up. Every player has now become a professional. Earlier, there was no professionalism in volleyball," stated Ranjit.

"When I was with the Indian team, we had a brilliant group, but we did not have the facility we needed. In the Indian system, you will get support only if you win medals. In PVL, we have great trainers, coaches, and video analysts. It helps. The standard will naturally go up. Every team has two foreigners. So, the Indian players are getting to learn from them. As a result, things are changing in Indian volleyball," he added.

As he sets himself up for big smashes, Ranjit has only one immediate goal: 'Maintain my fitness, play more matches, and give my best'.

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