CHENNAI : Chennai Spartans created history by becoming the first Indian club to reach the Asian Men’s Volleyball Club Championship semifinals after defeating Ho Chi Minh City 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 on Wednesday. But there is something unusual about the team representing India in Chinese Taipei.
Be it in any discipline, it is not often that a club playing in a continental tournament takes players from other teams of the country’s league. Can one imagine an IPL side picking the best players from other teams to represent in the now-defunct Champions League Twenty20? What if a club like Manchester United asked players from Chelsea or Liverpool to play for them in the UEFA Champions League? Unimaginable.
But that’s exactly what has happened in Spartans’ case. In their 14-member squad, six are from other franchises from the Pro Volleyball League (PVL). Ajith Lal C, Jerome Vinith, A Karthik and Ratheesh CK played for Calicut Heroes. Mohan Ukkrapandian represented Kochi Blue Spikers and Ashwal Rai was part of Black Hawks Hyderabad. Another player, Naresh T, was not a part of any PVL franchise in the inaugural edition.
However, the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) has not specifically put out a rule stating that clubs cannot include players from other teams in their squad. When this newspaper contacted Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) general secretary Ramavtar Singh Jakhar, he said that the AVC is aware of Spartans accommodating other players and that they are not breaching any rules. “These players were under contract for the duration of the league. After the league, they are free to play for whichever club they want. When PVL 2 starts, these players will be going through auctions again. Chennai are representing India and we want the strongest team to play,” Jakhar said.
PVL CEO Joy Bhattacharjya revealed that this is not the first time such a thing is happening. In the past, Pakistan have done the same according to Bhattacharjya. “The VFI has selected the strongest team this time. Ideally, I wouldn’t want to do this. Hopefully, in four to five years, we can send a strong team consisting of players from only one franchise,” he said. Interestingly, Bhattacharjya pointed out that some of the players are contracted for a year.
That is contradicting what Jakhar said and if any player with a long-term contract with another club is playing for Spartans in the ongoing tournament, then it should lead to a question of ineligibility. “Some of the players are contracted for a year. When PVL season 2 starts, the franchises can retain who they want and most of them will have to go through auctions once again.”