In otherwise gloomy picture, Nandi Yashvanth Kumar provides a ray of hope for volleyball in the State. Despite its rich history the sport has seen a steady decline and Yashvanth is the shining armour of the Telangana State.
Hailing from Pebbair, a nondescript mandal of Mahboobnagar, Yashvanth became one of the best setters (key player in volleyball who organises the attack) in the country through sheer hard work. Ever since he made his international debut, the 24-year-old has not looked back and is now the captain of the Indian senior team.
Yashvanth is following the footsteps of stars like Venkatanarayan and Ravikanth Reddy. Venkatanarayan, whose game at the net inspired the late Basith Ali in the 80s to make a comeback into the game, has a word of praise for Yashvanth. “He understands the game and plays cleverly. I’m happy with the ball distribution at the net. If he continues his good work, he will go a long way,’’ said the former international.
Yashvanth, who is currently with Income Tax department, had never played volleyball till Class X. He was more interested in cricket and was an all-rounder. He also played a bit of netball. However, Yashvanth’s towering frame of six foot three inches made his coach, Shakeel, feel that he would shine better in volleyball. “He took pains to admit me in the volleyball hostel at Mahboobnagar in 2006,” recalls Yashvanth. And just as Shakeel had thought, Yasvanth excelled in the game and three years later represented the State.
But playing as a setter is a challenge Yashvanth says. “I have be very alert. The team depends a lot on setter as he sets up the game for the spikers to finish off the points. We have to be very clever at the net and play a guessing game with the opponents,” he explains.
His performance at the Mandya Junior Nationals attracted the attention of the selectors and he was subsequently selected for the 2010 Asian Youth Championship at Iran. But the big moment came when he was in the Indian team for the World Junior championship at Ankara (Turkey).
“It was world stage. We qualified from Asia. But it was a totally different league. The intensity of the game was several notch higher. It was fast, furious and powerful, However, with the facilities in our country, we did very well to enter the quarter-finals before losing to the eventual winners Russia. Most of their players were nearly seven footers. They were literally towering over us. Of course, skill wise, the Europeans are better than us,’’ Yashwanth elaborates.
Talking about the Senior Indian team of which he is the captain, Yashwanth says, “We have a good team but we lack is exposure of international level.’’