Readers may be surprised to learn that volleyball is a popular sport in India not only for its recreational enjoyment but for competitive purposes as well. The first volleyball championship in the country was hosted by the Indian Olympic Association in 1936. The sport went on to evolve with the commencement of the Volleyball Federation of India in the 1950s, revealing many talented volleyball players in India who would break ground with their contributions to the sport.
India volleyball took home three medals from their participation in the Asian Games, and in 2013 the country held 27th place for volleyball in the world. The sport has done so well that it’s broken into sports betting platforms in India, allowing bettors across the country to make wagers on their favourite teams and players. Who are some of the best volleyball players in India? Let’s take a look at some and find out.
Jimmy George was widely considered one of the best volleyball players in the world. He tragically died in a car accident in 1987, but his legacy as a volleyball star lives on. Looking at Jimmy George stats, you wouldn’t be surprised to know he loved the sport from a young age. By the age of 16, George was already in the Kerala state volleyball team, and by the age of 21, he became one of the youngest volleyball players to win an Arjuna Award in India.
He was also the first Indian volleyball professional. He remains an international volleyball legend.
Cyril Vellore hails from the same hometown as Jimmy George – Kerala. In fact, this star played alongside George as the two competed for India and made the sport what it is today. Looking at Cyril Vellore stats, we see he played in both national and international competitions throughout his time in volleyball, including the Asian Games in 1986, where he was captain of the Indian team and on that occasion won the country the bronze. Vellore was issued an Arjuna Award in 1986 for his contribution to the sport. He has since retired from volleyball but continues to be remembered for his achievements.
A. Palanisamy was another hero of Indian volleyball. From Tamil Nadu, he competed in the Asian Games as a member of India’s national volleyball team in the 1960s. Palanisamy was nicknamed the ‘Black Panther’ for his impressive style of play on the volleyball court. A. Palanisamy stats reveal that he was the first volleyball player to win the Arjuna Award, and he was also Asia’s best player in 1962. The star retired from volleyball in the late 90s and sadly passed away in 2007. However, like the stars mentioned above, he continues to play a significant role in India’s competitive volleyball history.
Born in Pakistan, Nirmal Saini played volleyball in competitions across the state during her time at university. She was an international representative of the Indian Women Volleyball Team, and she also served as the team’s captain.
Nirmal Saini stats are very impressive – she represented India across the world in athletic competitions, won five gold medals, and received the Padma Shri Award during her time as a volleyball player. She was also married to the famous Indian athlete, Milkh Singh. Saini contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic and, after a three-week battle, sadly lost her life to the virus. She will be missed.
Abdul Basth was born in Hyderabad and he was captain of the India Men’s National Volleyball Team and contributed to winning the bronze medal in the 1986 Asian Games when India beat Japan. Abdul Basith’s stats go beyond his volleyball talent. The athlete was well known for his humble, honest, and polite disposition, as well as his impressive height – no doubt helpful during volleyball games!
Like his fellow volleyball legends, Basith received the Arjuna Award in 1989. The star passed away in 1991, joining his fellow teammates and leaving his own legacy in the history books of India’s top volleyball champions.
Muthusamy Appavu currently plays setter for the Ahmedabad Defenders. The talented player is from Thiruvarur, Tamilnadu, and has a history of standing out in India’s volleyball scene. He joined the country’s national team in 2018 and has since participated in many of India’s best tournament performances for competitive volleyball – including the bronze medal win in the 2018 U21 BRICS Games and the silver medal win in the U23 Asian Championship (where he also won best setter). Muthusamy Appavu stats continue to show the young athlete advancing in volleyball, joining the Senior Indian team in the Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship in 2021.
Ramavtar Singh Jakhar
Ramavtar Singh Jakhar is another well-known retired volleyball star from India. The former player is from the Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan and is currently a chairperson for the Volleyball Federation of India. The Ramavtar Singh Jakhar stats are rather impressive – the star represented India in many volleyball tournaments over the years, including the Asian Championships, the SAF Games, and the FAZR International tournament. Jakhar helped India win gold, silver, and bronze medals throughout his years in competitive volleyball and served as team manager in 2006. He also won an Aravali award in 1991 and a Maharana Pratap award in 1992.
Nripjit Singh Bedi
Nripjit Singh Bedi (‘Nippy’) retired from the game of competitive volleyball in 1995, but he’s still celebrated as a significant member of India’s volleyball history. He played in the Indian national team, helping them win the silver medal in the Asian Games in 1962.
That same year, he was given the Arjuna Award by the Indian government. Nripjit Singh Bedi stats show that this star holds the record for playing the most All-India Nationals from 1958 to 1979. During his time as a professional volleyball player, he won 13 gold medals, five silver medals, and one bronze medal at nationals.
Balwant Singh (‘Ballu’) was a member of the India Men’s National Volleyball Team. Born in the Kaithal district and, as another tall young man, gravitated towards volleyball after he joined the Border Security Force (BSF) in Punjab.
The Balwant Singh stats showcase the player helping Punjab to succeed nationwide in the 1960s and ‘70s, earning him the Arjuna Award in 1972. Singh also played volleyball for India in the 1970, 1974, and 1978 Asian Games. Throughout Singh’s time as a player, Punjab won 10 National Championships. Singh managed a volleyball establishment in Kaul and passed away in 2010.
Amit Gulia, at 23, is one of India’s youngest competitive volleyball players. He currently plays for the Hyderabad Black Hawks in the RuPay Prime Volleyball League. Looking at the Amit Gulia stats, we can see that this youngster was the captain of India’s U23 side in 2019 and helped the team win the silver medal in the Asian Championships that year. If Gulia has already achieved so much at such a young age, there’s no doubt that his future in professional Indian volleyball will only continue to grow and land him in the same renowned footsteps as his former trailblazers.