(From left) Nepal’s coach Sudesh Rimal and captain Binita Budhathokil and India’s coach Bhaishali Bhadtare during a pre-match conference in Kathmandu on Wednesday.( Bijay Gajmer/Republica)
KATHMANDU, July 28: South Asian volleyball giant India is expecting Nepal to throw tough challenge when the women's national teams of the two sides meet during two friendly matches beginning at the National Sports Council's covered hall on Thursday. The second friendly will be held on Friday.
Team India's head coach Bhaishali Bhadtare said that she was expecting tough competition from Nepal. “Nepal has been playing well lately. We are aware about their recent performance, so we fully expect tough match tomorrow,” Bhadtare said during a pre-match conference at the National Sports Council.
Bhadtare has arrived in Kathmandu after 17 years. The last time she was here was during the 8th South Asian Games held in 1999 in the capacity of the Indian women's volleyball team captain. The team led by Bhadtare had returned home with gold medal.
The mighty Indian team is placed 57th in the FIVB women's world ranking and has been dominating South Asian volleyball. Bhadtare, however, refused that this ranking will make much difference in Thursday's match.
“No team is stronger or weaker after entering the court. Whoever plays well will win,” she said.
Bhadtare also informed that the team was studded with nine players who featured during India's gold medal haul in the last edition of the South Asian Games (SAG) at home court. Rekha S, Nirmala and Terin Antony will lead the Indian attack while Smisha KS and Joseph Nishgya will support them from the middle.
Nepal has played twice against India in the last two years and lost as many matches on straight sets. Nepal was defeated by the South Asian giant two years ago in the First South Asian Invitational Volleyball Championship and the 12th SAG.
Nepal coach Sudesh Rimal expects the friendly matches to provide good experience for his girls for the upcoming South Asian Games. “We have seen improvement in our players in recent domestic tournaments. So, such international friendlies will help them get better and collect valuable experience,” Rimal said.
There is no new face in Team Nepal in comparison to the last SAG squad and coach Rimal complained of short preparation. “We wanted to include new players in the team but failed to do so because of short training period. The new players would not have set properly in just a month-long training. We would have definitely included new faces had we got longer period for preparations.”
Nepal's captain Binita Budhathoki expressed her delight over this match stating that the match against stronger team at home court helps younger players to gain experience. “We have some good junior players and such friendly matches help them get more experience,” she shared.
Binita considers attacking as the major strength of her team and she has huge expectations from youngsters like Saraswati Chaudhary and Pratibha Mali.
The 31-year-old Binita is the most experienced player of the team. She holds experience of participating in the 8th, 10th and 12th editions of SAG. Similarly, Manju Gurung and Kopila Upreti had represented Nepal in the 10th and 12th editions.
Coach Rimal is expected to choose Kamala Pun, Kopila Upreti and Aruna Shahi in libero, blocker and spike roles respectively.
Binita Budhathoki (C)