CHENNAI: When Gujarat’s Dilip Khoiwal and Laxman Choudhary walked off the pitch after their pre-quarterfinal loss to Telangana, neither of them looked particularly dejected. Both players were chuckling to themselves at how surprisingly well their tournament had gone. This was the first time a team from Gujarat had managed to reach the knockout stages in the 18-year history of the national beach volley championships. But even more remarkably, this was the first time both Khoiwal and Choudhary were playing on sand.
“There is no sand in Ahmedabad,” Khoiwal laughs. “Neither of us had ever played on it before. Before we came here, we practiced on the indoor courts. So playing on sand here was a completely new experience. We tried getting the ball used for beach volley, but the shopkeeper back home sold us something else,” Choudhary interjects. “So even the ball was something we had to adjust to.”
Both Khoiwal and Choudhary are accomplished indoor volley players — the former is an experienced India international who has played in the Asian Games while the latter is a junior international.Both are part of a large contingent at the National Beach Volley Championships, who are making the switch after playing the indoor version for a while.More than a dozen of the players in action at Besant Nagar beach have represented India in the indoor game.
This includes Tamil Nadu’s Siva Balan and Damu, Andhra’s Kasi Vishwanath, Krishnam Raju and Naresh, the latter two having represented India in beach volley on multiple occassions.Former India star Kishore Kumar is not playing here despite being part of the team that won the Kerala state championships. His partner was unable to make it here, which meant Kishore missed out as well.
“It’s not that I have given up on the indoor game, I play that too,” Kishore says. “I was introduced to beach volley by a couple of my friends who had turned to the game. They were telling me I could do well in this and so I gave it a try. I was hooked in no time. This year we dominated the state championships.”
In Khoiwal’s case, he switched to beach volley to compensate for a lengthy absence from the indoor game — he recently switched from Rajasthan to Gujarat and the former still has not issued a No Objection Certificate that will make him eligible for the latter. But many others are here because of the route this competition clears for Asian Games.
“The top four from this event will be in contention to represent India at the Asian Games,” says long-time national coach GE Sreedharan, who is expected to manage the women’s team at the upcoming Asian Games.
“So a lot of players have turned up here hoping to win a ticket to the Games. A lot of indoor volley players switch to beach volley when they are in their late thirties, this is common all around the world. Beach Volley requires a lot more stamina than the indoor game, but it is also a lot slower. This plays to the advantage of these older players.”