The stage is set for the inaugural edition of the RuPay Pro Volleyball League aimed at giving a boost to the sport in the country, beginning with the first leg here on Saturday.
Six teams will battle it out for top honours in the tournament, to be played here and in Chennai.
The first 12 matches will be held in Kochi while six matches including the semifinals and final will be held in Chennai. The final will take place on February 22.
The six franchises who will be part of the league are: Ahmedabad Defenders, Calicut Heroes, Chennai Spartans, U Mumba Volley, Black Hawks Hyderabad and Kochi Blue Spikers.
According to Kochi Blue Spikers captain Mohan Ukkrapandian, the league would provide a platform for Indian players to compete with the best from across the world.
“The league is a much-needed boost as it gives us a platform to compete with the best in the world. I really hope the fans take to the league in a fitting manner,” he said.
The tournament will kick off with a match between Kochi Blue Spikers and U Mumba Volley at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium here.
U Mumba Volley skipper Dipesh Sinha was upbeat about the league and said it provides an opportunity for young players in the country to rub shoulders with the best from various countries.
The presence of foreign stars including David Lee, a former Olympic gold medallist, Novica Bjelica (Ahmedabad Defenders), Paul Lotman (Calicut Heroes) and Rudy Verhoeff (Chennai Spartans), among others, is expected to add to the league’s appeal.
To make the game faster and spectator-friendly, the round-robin matches will have five sets and the first to reach 15 points shall win the set. The winning team will be awarded 2 points. If a team wins 5-0, it will be called a whitewash and the winning team will be awarded 3 points for the same. The playoffs will see each set of 25 points.
Also, new concepts like Super Serve and Super Point have been introduced to make the league exciting. Each ace served will give the serving team two points, which will be called the Super Serve.
Chennai Spartans skipper Shelton Moses is upbeat about his team’s prospects and said the first target is to reach the playoffs first. “We have a strong team put together with the right balance of experience and youth. Our target is to make it to the playoffs so that we can take advantage of home support during the second leg in Chennai,” Moses said.
America’s Carson Clark, the only foreign captain of a franchise in the league, said his team Black Hawks Hyderabad had a good mix of players and expected the tournament to do wonders to the sport here. Ahmedabad Defenders captain Ranjit Singh is the costliest player of the league, who were picked through a draft.