Chennai: G.R. Vaishnav was in line for selection to the Tamil Nadu volleyball team ahead of the national championship conducted in Chennai two years ago. But he ultimately lost the selection race and his age -he was 22 at that time -was held up against him. Thus, Vaishnav's dream of playing his maiden nationals in front of his home crowd vanished. But the disappointment only served to steel his resolve. He is now not only TN's No.1 blocker; he is also the best in the country . “I worked harder after missing out on the Chennai nationals.
I was determined to prove my mettle. I resolved that I would remain India's No.1 for at least five years.
I think I'm on course to fulfill that wish,“ Vaishnav said.
It would be an understatement to say that Vaishnav is a key member of the Tamil Nadu team that is leaving Chennai on Wednesday to play in the nationals at Moradabad, UP, from December 22. If he plays to his potential, Tamil Nadu's ninth national title will be a certainty.
Vaishnav knows the importance of his job.
“Even though the setter and libero have crucial rules, the performance of blockers is most critical. Blockers win matches,“ he said.
The Coimbatore native enjoyed blunting attacks from a young age. When Vaishnav got a job in Indian Overseas Bank three years ago, he was more known for his blocking abilities rather than short-ball attacking. For a man of his height -he is now 2.06m tall -blocking came naturally to him. Gradually, Vaishnav worked on his attacking.
According to IOB and Tamil Nadu coach P.Sundaram, Vaishnav is a “complete player“ now. “He is equally good at blocking and attacking these days.
Vaishnav is in peak form and Tamil Nadu will be formidable if he fires on all cylinders,“ Sundaram said.
Vaishnav said IOB setter Ukkrapandian and Sundaram helped him become an all-rounder. “My coach made a few adjustments to my take-off. He took special care to polish my attacking skill. I'm confident in both departments now, even though blocking is my first love,“ he added. The towering blocker is upset that Tamil Nadu and IOB have come up short in major tournaments ever since he cemented his place in both teams. “My burning ambition is to help Tamil Nadu win the nationals. All the senior members of the team share my passion. I'm sure we will come back from Moradabad as champions,“ he said.
Tamil Nadu's other blocker in the playing six is Akhin who, like Vaishnav, was groomed by former India coach G.E. Sridharan in Coimbatore. According to Sundaram, Akhin has the talent and confidence to rise to the occasion at Moradabad.