CHENNAI: If anyone was asking if the first edition of Pro Volleyball league was a success, they certainly won’t after Friday. The final between Chennai Spartans and Calicut Heroes was something straight out of the organisers’ wildest dreams. A packed Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium — the crowd of 6,152 was the biggest of the tournament — featured a healthy smattering of away fans, decked in red and carrying posters of Calicut Heroes’ stalwart Jerome Vinith. Every point was vociferously contested between the two sets of fans, music to the broadcaster’s ears.
The match itself was a bit underwhelming. Calicut looked overawed by the huge home support. They ceded ground with the first point and never gained back momentum. Chennai, though, were every bit the big-match players they’ve proven themselves to be. Rudy Verhoeff, by far the best player of the tournament, proved to be a class apart again. No one could match his 13 points. The end result was an easy 15-11, 15-12, 16-14 victory for Chennai.
On reflection, it was Calicut not showing up in the first two sets that cost them. Chennai created a two-point lead early in the first set and never relented. The score reached 12-7 and there was little Calicut could do but concede. The second set had a similar story to tell.
Calicut did put up a fight in the third, taking the lead at a few crucial junctures; even getting to a couple of points from winning the set. But the pressure of having to stay in the match against a team having their best outing of the tournament, and being in front of a hostile crowd, was bound to get to Calicut.
The final closed off what has been an extremely promising inaugural edition. Arenas were packed and fanbases created. That many fans actually travelled from Kozhikode to watch this match speaks for itself.
The tournament has created quite a buzz among the international volleyball community, with many players expressing interest in being a part of the next edition. Volleyball was always a gamble for the broadcaster, but noises coming from Sony Sports Network indicate that it has paid off. “Viewership for television matches has been much higher than what we expected before the tournament started,” said sources. “We are very happy with how the inaugural edition has gone.”
The tough work for PVL starts now; following up on a good first act. There is talk of a bigger tournament spread across more cities. But for now, those behind the scenes of the event can take home that picture of Chennai Spartans huddled together with the trophy held high, a packed arena and incessant drumbeats cheering them on.