Everything you need to know about the Prime Volleyball League
First of all, what is the Prime Volleyball League?
A franchise-based league for the sport of volleyball modeled after the highly successful Pro Kabaddi League. The stakeholders of the PVL are the Baseline Ventures promoters and the seven teams involved. This, according to Joy Bhattacharjya, CEO of PVL, ensures transparency and accountability.
Who are these seven teams?
Ahmedabad Defenders, Bengaluru Torpedoes, Calicut Heroes, Chennai Blitz, Hyderabad Black Hawks, Kochi Blue Spikers and the Kolkata Thunderbolts. Each team has a 14-player strong squad, with two places reserved for foreign players.
When is that from? Where do they play it?
The PVL begins on Saturday, February 5. The championship phase will run until February 21 with the playoffs for the top four after that. The final will take place on February 27. It will take place at the indoor Gachibowli stadium in Hyderabad.
COVID-19 restrictions of course necessitate a behind closed doors event, but matches will be streamed live on the Sony Network (and SonyLIV). There will be one game per day, starting at 7 p.m.
Someone we should keep an eye on?
The league has an interesting mix of experienced foreigners and exciting Indian talent.
Olympic (and World Cup) gold medalist center blocker David Lee of the United States will line up for the Calicut Heroes, alongside two of India’s best – Jerome Vinith (capable of playing in attack and defense) and Ajithlal Chandran (hitter).
Vinith was one of three Indians who attracted the highest bids at the PVL auction, Rs. 15 Lakhs, alongside middle blockers Ashwal Rai (Kolkata Thunderbirds) and Karthik Ashok (Kochi Blue Spikers). Watch out for Cuba (Hyderabad Blackhawks) slugger Henry Bell and teammate slugger Amit Gulia. Muthusamy (Ahmedabad Defenders) is comfortably the most expensive passer in the league and will want to show everyone why he was worth Rs. 10 Lakh.
Kerala volleyball great Tom Joseph (retired) recommends keeping an eye out for central blocker Akhin GS (Chennai Blitz), while teammate Fernando David Gonzalez of Venezuela (hitter) might also catch a few looks.
Didn’t we previously have a franchise-based volleyball league?
Oh yes. The Pro Volleyball League in 2019. It featured six of the seven franchises that make up the current league and was held to packed houses in Kozhikode and Chennai. It was won by Chennai Spartans.
This was discontinued after the Volleyball Federation of India terminated him mid-contract. The case was taken to the Madras High Court, which ruled in favor of Baseline and demanded that VFI pay up to Rs. 6 Crores in damages to the developer.
When the Prime Volleyball League was announced, the VFI announced that they would have an operational league before the PVL. There has been no movement on this since.
What are the rules?
The basic rules are quite simple.
The volleyball court is divided into two sides by a net 2.43m above the ground (which should give you an idea of the size of these athletes and the power of their jumps). You earn points each time the ball hits an opponent’s court or bounces out of an opponent’s bounds. As in badminton (which was the inspiration behind this sport, by the way), you win a point, you win the chance to serve.
Each team can have three touches (not counting blocks at the net) of the ball before they have to cross the net. You can use any part of your body to keep the ball in play, as long as you don’t catch it, hold it, or throw it. A player cannot touch the ball twice in a row (excluding blocks at the net), and no one is allowed to touch the net while the ball is in play.
Matches are usually won in the best of five sets. The first four sets are up to 25 points (with at least a two point difference). The fifth and final set is up to 15. The first team to win three sets wins the match.
How many players are there in a team?
You have the outside hitter – the attacker on the left side who has to jump high and smash hard (spike), these are the leading attackers, the one who catches the most points.
The middle blocker – who is usually the tallest person on the team and leads the frontline defense in net blocking.
The opposite hitter – attacker on the right side who has the same skills as the outside hitter but must share defensive responsibilities with his attackers.
Setter – the team’s playmaker, who dictates the flow and pace of attacks while delicately setting up spikes for hitters.
The libero – the one who wears a jersey of a different color from the others, they are purely defensive players who can only play in the backcourt. The defensive specialist – as the name suggests is the main receiver and passer of the team.
Note – the front half of the court (the first 10 feet near the net) is where the attack happens, the backcourt is used for defence. You cannot block or attack serves from the frontcourt.