CHENNAI: “Let us go, Ahmedabad Defenders. Sorry, Chennai Blitz,” wrote a fan from Tamil Nadu while reacting to a Prime Volleyball League Season 2 promo on Twitter.
He may not be the only one from the state to shift allegiance, given the strong Tamil Nadu presence in the Defenders family. Veteran tactician S Dakshinamoorthy, who has more than three decades of coaching experience under his belt, continues at the helm after guiding the franchise to a runner-up finish in the inaugural edition last year.
Four former and as many current students of the SRM IST at Kattankulathur in Chennai, where Dakshinamoorthy has been employed for years, are part of Ahmedabad’s 14-member roster for the upcoming Prime Volleyball season that will begin on February 4 in Bengaluru.
A Muthusamy, R Angamuthu, LM Manoj and TN Muhammed Iqbal learnt the tricks of the trade from Dakshinamoorthy during their time at the institute. T Ragul, S Santhosh, P Aswath and T Srikanth are pursuing their respective degrees while carrying forward SRM’s rich volleyball legacy under the guidance of the noted coach.
After overcoming challenges such as retention rules and auction dynamics in the process of setting up a squad with known faces, Dakshinamoorthy said that familiarity within the group would help the Ahmedabad team to perform to the maximum. “It is one of the plus points. The boys have played under me and know me. There are eight players [who have worked with me] in the 14-man squad, which makes it a little more than 50 per cent. It is a big advantage,” Dakshinamoorthy told DT Next after the end of a practice session at the team’s training base SRM IST. “It will be helpful in many ways. In a team sport, on-court understanding is important. The majority of the players know what I expect from them in training; they work accordingly. With their presence, we have been able to maintain the tempo in our training sessions. Each and every training session of ours has been effective, thanks to the players’ support. We are continuing what we did in the past, with slight changes,” Dakshinamoorthy said.
Muthusamy and universal Angamuthu, echoed his views. “I attended the auction [in Kolkata in October 2022]. Our plan was to somehow buy Manoj and Angamuthu. Manoj, Angamuthu and I have been playing together since college days. We managed to get eight or nine of our targets at the auction. As soon as we assembled the team, we got the confidence that we would do well,” said Muthusamy. On his part, Angamuthu said: “During our college days, our coach taught us how to handle challenging situations. We learnt how to coordinate and create an on-field connection. Irrespective of the situation the team is in, we will manage to do them.”
Angamuthu added: “It (familiarity) will give us a psychological advantage. Last year, our team was considered as an underdog. But, we connected and coordinated well to create a good mindset. When you have a good mindset, you can always develop your skills.”
Team keen to go one step further
After being forced to settle for the second spot on the podium in the first season, Ahmedabad is keen to go one step further this time. “There is good coordination on court. There is no language barrier (most of the domestic players speak Tamil). The foreigners (Andrew Kohut and Danial Motazedi) are gelling well. We have a better squad when compared to last year. Cup ah adikkarom (we will win the Cup),” said Muthusamy. Meanwhile, Angamuthu, one of the most experienced members in the squad, urged the youngsters to play their part. “When I was a junior player [in the college team], my seniors played out of their skin and helped me shine. So, I tell the junior players ‘play your best. Only then will your juniors look up to you and get to this level. You should be a role model for them’. This is what I tell the young boys,” said Angamuthu.