KARACHI: Pakistan on Sunday were off to a solid start when they came from behind twice to beat Thailand 3-2 in their opener of the 21st Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship at the Chiba Port Arena in Japan.
In a high-voltage Group B outing, Pakistan, who jumped to the 48th spot in the world rankings following a super win, lost the first set 25-22. However, Aimal Khan-led side made a stunning fightback as they won the second set 25-23 to level the game 1-1.
Thailand, who dropped four places to 43rd in the world rankings as a result of the defeat, then did well in the third set with strong power-spiking and won it 25-21 to put themselves 2-1 ahead. However, at this stage Pakistan brought discipline in their ranks, winning the next two sets 25-23 and 15-12 to seal a hard-earned win.
Pakistan’s skipper Aimal Khan was happy with the outcome. “Yes, it was a much-needed win as you need a good start in such events,” he told ‘The News’ from Chiba.
“It was a tough game, no doubt, as we were playing an international match after two years and naturally you feel problems when you play after a long time,” Aimal pointed out. “But despite all this the boys put in their best, worked really hard out there and the result is in front of you,” he said. “The win has boosted our morale ahead of our next game against Hong Kong which is a very tough side. They are short-statured, play in a zig-zag way and have good coordination. We are going to hold a meeting and will plan for them as we have to play against them tomorrow,” he said.
Aimal lauded the young stock, especially libero Maaz who made his international debut. “Maaz played much better than expected. He was wonderful,” he said.” It was his first experience to play an international game and in an international standard indoor hall. He hadn’t even played in a national event and putting in such an impressive effort on his debut is wonderful. Similarly, Murad, Fakhar and Afaq also played really well,” he added.
“What we need is self-belief and our juniors will get such feelings with exposure. You come under pressure when you don’t have the experience of playing in such a pressure situation,” said Aimal, an experienced spiker with load of professional league expertise.
“It’s great that we see improvement in rankings. The Asian Championships or other AVC events are very important as here you win a set and get the reward. We will try our best in the remaining tournament to pull off more victories,” the skipper said.
Pakistan Volleyball Federation (PVF) chairman Chaudhry Yaqoob said the team played under stress. “”It’s fine that we won the game but the team did not play as per its strength. And the basic reason behind it is that we were playing after two years at international level and so the team played under stress,” said Yaqoob, who is accompanying the side in Japan.
“But it’s really nice to see the team making a superb fightback, especially in the second set when Pakistan at one stage were 2-9 behind and then went on to win that set. But I am hopeful that the team will play much better in the rest of the group matches and we will inshaAllah be able to make it to the top-eight,” Yaqoob said.