Hailing from Trivandrum, Kerala, a certain Akhin Jas grabbed the spotlight when the Pro Volleyball League franchise Chennai Spartans decided to splash a whopping 10 lakh for the blocker. This wasn’t the highest paid fee during the auction, but given the limited popularity of volleyball in India, it was certainly a productive sign.
But as they say, “with great power comes great responsibility” and when the league kicks off, Akhin will have a point to prove. Justifying a hefty price tag can be exhausting – ask Paul Pogba or even Jaydev Unadkat for that matter. But as the blocker speaks over a telephonic interview, he seemed relaxed. Relaxed because he knows what kind of impact he can have on the game.
“I do not feel any pressure, to be honest. I believe the team paid the price simply because they trust me and they know my abilities. I don’t care about the money. The only thing which matters is my performance and I will give my best for the team,” says the 28-year-old.
A cricket fan
Akhin was introduced to volleyball for the same reason many of the current players were commenced to – height. Standing at 6’7 high, the blocker explains that he is a big cricket fan, but the advantage of having a towering stature eventually crafted him a way to volleyball. “I played cricket during my school life. I loved the sport. But this one day somebody near my village called me to play volleyball since I have a good height, and as I started playing the sport, the interest started picking up.”
This interest, however, wasn’t enough for Akhin to make a career in volleyball as finding a good coach was hard to come by. By the time, Akhin was a raw diamond and he needed a good dexterity. And that province was crafted by a renowned volleyball coach, GE Sridharan.
“I knew I wanted to do something in volleyball, but couldn’t find a good coach. In a span of 3 years, I kept changing colleges in search of a good coach before I moved to Coimbatore to train under GE Sridharan.”
Akhin credits all the success he has achieved thus far to Sridharan. “He is my God,” explains the blocker. It was under his training and guidance that Akhin got selected in the senior Tamil Nadu team.
Future of Indian volleyball
In 2015, Akhin represented India at the Asian Championship in Iran before becoming a part of the Indian contingent at the 2018 Asian Games. Currently, an employee of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), the 28-year-old says BPCL provides a great platform for the players. “They (BPCL) provide great facilities. The coaches are good, the practice is regular and the only thing they demand is a good result.”
The Pro Volleyball League kicks off from February 2 and the 28-year-old, who was named as the best blocker in India in 2018, believes that the tournament might bring a revolution in the country. “Some 6-7 years back, Iran took the step of launching the domestic volleyball league and now they are number 1 in Asia. We need this kind of revolution and Pro Volleyball League would help the cause.”
A mandatory question was quizzed as to who according to him are the favourites to win the first season and the 28-year-old seemed optimist as anything. “Six teams are playing but champion can only be one. My prediction? Chennai Spartans,” said Akhin while signing off.