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When Ashwal Rai bought shoes for entire Kolkata Thunderbolts team from Dubai before PVL 2023

Since leading Kolkata Thunderbolts to the inaugural PVL title, Ashwal Rai has grown in stature and confidence.

Ashwal Rai Kolkata Thunderbolts

Ashwal Rai


Abhijit Nair

Published: 28 Feb 2023 11:12 AM GMT

Ashwal Rai, who plies his trade for the Kolkata Tunderbolts, was amongst the most expensive players in the inaugural season of Prime Volleyball League (PVL) last year.

Just months later, the Karnataka-lad proved exactly why he is the most sought after player in Indian volleyball as he led the Kolkata Thunderbolts to the tag of first-ever PVL champions.

Ashwal, who joined the Kolkata Thunderbolts as a shy, soft-spoken lad has since grown in stature and confidence.

Ahead of PVL 2023, the 30-year-old took it upon himself to ensure that this team had the best of facilities for training during the pre-season camp.

The story goes something like this:

The owners of Kolkata Thunderbolts had ordered shoes for their players from overseas during the inaugural season, but the shoes never arrived.

“Last season I had ordered shoes for all the players from outside India because it is impossible to get these sizes here, but it got stuck in customs. We kept following up with them right from the start of the season. The season ended, we were crowned the champions, but the shoes never arrived,” tells Pawan Patodia – the principal owner of Kolkata Thunderbolts, to The Bridge.

Going into the second season, the team decided to place orders and bring in shoes earlier. The deadline to get this done was set at 15th December – more than month and a half before the start of the season. No one knew about this apart from the team management.

But, a certain Ashwal Rai had other ideas.

He was in Dubai to play some tournament in early December. He is a frequent visitor to the city and has managed to make quite a few local contacts over the years.

Being the leader he is, Rai felt the urge to ensure that his team had the best of shoes and went ahead and handpicked it himself. What adds to it is the fact that he bought it at a rate 20% cheaper than what the team management was about to close a deal in.

“Last year we did not have the best of facilities, with everything happening hastily.I just wanted to ensure that the team had best of facilities and help out the management, so just brought it. I bought it for everyone, but could not find even one pair which fits me,” Ashwal laughs.

Moreover, Ashwal was also in the forefront to scout the team’s practice locations and hotels ahead of the season.

“I think there is a stark difference in Ashwal’s overall behaviour and leadership in last season and this season. He has really stepped up this year,” says Sumedh Patodia – the team director of Kolkata Thunderbolts.

“He was running for everything himself ahead of the season. He was scouting the practice locations, hotels all by himself despite us telling him otherwise. He went to check all the facilities personally and was even negotiating with the hotels,” Sumedh adds.

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