The National Games is always a special event for any Indian sports person, but the current Games is special on multiple levels for one of the country’s most decorated spikers.
When former Indian captain K J Kapil Dev lined up alongside his Kerala teammates at the V K K Menon Indoor Stadium on Monday, it was not only the first time in four years that he was representing his home state but it also marked the first time that Kapil was playing in an indoor volleyball tournament in Kerala’s volley capital.
“I have never played a full indoor tournament in Kozhikode before,” Kapil told City Express.
“I have attended a lot of camps here and I have played in events in outdoor matches in various places in the districts. But I have never played at the indoor stadium here. So far, it has been an anomaly in my career to not have played at a venue that is etched in volley folklore and I am happy that I have set it right. Playing the first match here for Kerala was a wonderful feeling. The atmosphere here was electric and it is not every day you get to play in front of fans like these,” he said.
The 34-year-old Kapil moved to the Railways pretty early in his career, which denied him a lot of chances to play in the city. It also means that he is representing his home state after a gap of four years.
“I last played for Kerala in the 2011 National Games. It is always a special feeling playing for your home state. When you play for your department team, you don’t get that adrenaline rush that you get when thousands of supporters are shouting for you.”
Kapil is elated after winning the recent national championships with the Railways and he is confident that he can replicate that success with Kerala.
“All the teams have been strengthened by Railway players coming into the squad and so have we. But I think we are the favourites to win the gold here. I know most of the players I am playing with from the various national camps we have attended over the years, so familiarity is not an issue. The only player I have not played with before is Jerome Vinith, who was playing for Tamil Nadu until last year. But he is a good young player and I am looking forward to playing with him.”