The first season of Prime Volleyball League begins at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad on Saturday. Seven franchises namely Calicut Heroes, Kochi Blue Spikers, Ahmedabad Defenders, Hyderabad Black Hawks, Chennai Blitz, Bengaluru Torpedoes and Kolkata Thunderbolts will battle it out for the trophy from 5 to 27 February. The competition will be held in a bio-bubble behind closed doors, with fans not allowed.

The tournament will consist of 24 matches with Hyderabad Black Hawks taking on the Kochi Blue Spikers in the opening match. All the teams will play each of the other teams once before the top four teams qualify for the semi-finals. The knockouts will be played on 24 and 25 February.

The teams were picked at the PVL Auction in Kochi on 14 December 2021.

Here’s a quick look at the teams:

The Ahmedabad Defenders will receive the services of an excellent setter in Muthusamy and he will be backed by Middle Blocker Manoj LM. American Ryan Meehan (blocker) and Rodrigo Villalboa from Argentina (attacker) will provide excellent inputs with their international experience. The rest of the squad includes Hardeep Singh, Shon T John, S Santhosh, Prabakaran P, Saju Prakash Meyal, Prasanna Raja AA, Chaudhari Harsh and Angamuthu.

The Bengaluru Torpedoes will witness the experienced Ranjit Singh (captain & setter) and Pankaj Sharma (attacker) taking the field for the team and they will receive support from American players - Noah Taitano (universal) and Kyle Friend (attacker). The rest of the make-up of the team includes Rohith P, Varun GS, B Midhun Kumar, Sarang Santhilal, Lavmeet Katariya, Srajan U Shetty, Ranjit Singh, Vinayak Rokhade and Ganesha K.

The Hyderabad Black Hawks will see experienced attacker Amit Gulia taking centerstage for the franchise and he will be supported by Setters Hariharan V and Vipul Kumar. The Hyderabad team has also been bolstered by international personnel in Luis Antonio Arias Guzman from Venezuela (universal) and Henry Bell from Cuba (attacker). The rest of the squad includes Rohit Kumar, George Antony, Anand K, Sudheer Shetty, John Joseph EJ, Jishnu PV, Praful S and SV Guru Prasanth.

The star duo of Jerome Vinith (universal) and Ajithlal C (attacker) will lead the charge for the Calicut Heroes and have the backing from international players from the USA in Olympic gold medallist, David Lee (blocker) & Aaron Koubi (attacker). The rest of the squad includes Abil Krishnan MP, Vshal Krishna PS, Vignesh Raj D, R Ramanathan, Arjun Nath LS, Mujeeb MC, Jithin N, Lal Sujan MV, Arun Zacharias Siby and Ansab O.

The Chennai Blitz will receive the services of experienced players - Ukkrapandian Mohan (captain & setter), Akhin GS (middle blocker) and Naveen Raja Jacob (attacker). They have also bolstered their side with international players in Fernando David Gonzalez Rodriguez from Venezuela (attacker) and Bruno Da Silva from the USA (attacker). The rest of the squad includes Amit, Azmath Ulla, Kanagaraj, GR Vaishnav, Abhilash Chaudhary, Mohit Bheem Sehrawat, Pinamma Prashant, Amitsinh Kaptansinh Tanvar and Jobin Varghese.

The Captain in the Indian national team’s last tournament, Karthik Madhu (middle blocker) will lead the charge for Kochi Blue Spikers. He will be supported by the experienced middle blocker Deepesh Kumar Sinha. They have also bolstered their side with international players - Colton Cowell (attacker) and Cody Caldwell (attacker) from USA. The rest of the squad includes Raison Benet Rebello, Sethu TR, Erin Varghese, Darshan S Gowda, C Venu, Abhinav BS, Dushyanth GN, Prashant Kumar Saroha, Asham A and Abdul Raheem.

The Kolkata Thunderbolts will receive the services of experienced players - Ashwal Rai (captain & middle blocker) and Vinit Kumar (universal) who will have backing from International players in Matthew August (blocker) and Ian Satterfield (universal) from USA. The rest of the squad includes Anu James, Tharun Gowda K, Mohamed Riyazudeen, Rahul K, Hari Prasad BS, Muhammed Shafeeq, Aravindhan S and Janshad U.


Quotes corner

Tuhin Mishra, Co-Founder & MD, Baseline Ventures: “We are moments away from a massive occasion not just in Indian volleyball, but in Indian sport overall. We have waited for a long time to provide a platform to numerous talented volleyball players wherein they can showcase their talent and therefore we are eager to get the tournament started. We are looking forward to a cracker of a tournament and we hope that all players play at their absolute best during the course of the tournament. I would like to wish all the franchises best of luck for the competition.”

PVL CEO Joy Bhattacharya: “The quality of the competition is going to be absolutely fantastic. I am really excited and delighted that we have come so far. I am looking forward to a really exciting tournament. The RuPay Prime Volleyball League is trying to grow a game which is really popular worldwide, easy to play with in limited areas and which already has a great base in India. This is the opportunity to get the game really going in India. This is a journey not just for volleyball, but also for Indian sport.”

Controversy behind the league

The league has had issues with the Volleyball Federation of India. The previous volleyball league in India had come to an abrupt end and this current iteration is being run as a private entity. As per a report in The Hindu VFI has scheduled its National championship, in Bhubaneswar, from February 7 to 13 and the federation has gone to the extent of saying the Indian players for Asian Games later this year would be selected from that event and not the PVL. Bhattacharya also told Sportstar that the league’s clash with the national championships did not come as a surprise to him.

The Prime Volleyball League will be broadcast on Sony Sports Network in India and the Sony LIV app.

With inputs from the PVL media team