ISLAMABAD: Pakistan volleyball team captain Murad Jehan feels the country is blessed with immense talent in the sports but there is a need to harness it. For that, the 30-year-old believes, a professional league is essential.

“A league on the pattern of cricket’s Pakistan Super League is the need of the hour as it will provide much-needed exposure to the players,” Murad told Dawn on Tuesday. “The government and the sponsors need to come forward and make it happen.”

Murad was speaking on the rest day during the Central Asian Volleyball Championship, in which Pakistan have won their opening three matches. He said the team’s strong performances had come on the back of several of the team’s players featuring in professional leagues in different countries.

“It matters a lot,” he stressed. “Currently, 10 of our players out of 14 have the experience of playing in leagues abroad and that has benefitted the national team. We can only do so much better than this if we have a league in our country.

“With just a few editions, there will be a significant improvement as our players would be playing with foreign players which will provide them with much greater competition.

“Countries like the Maldives are holding professional leagues so why can’t we do the same? The government has to come forward and support the federation in that endeavor because without its support, it’s impossible to hold it.”

He gave the example of Iran, Asia’s top-ranked side. “They are holding a fantastic league and it shows why they’re Asia’s top team,” said Murad.

Pakistan’s main spiker said while there is a need to improve infrastructure at grass roots level, “the Pakistan Volleyball Federation is doing the best it can with the available resources but without that full patronage and support of government, we can’t achieve our targets.”

Murad, who hails from Bannu, has been part of the national team since 2013 and was recently handed captaincy. He was optimistic about Pakistan’s chances of winning the Central Asian Championship by beating Iran, his team’s main rivals.

“Iran might not have some of their players, who opted out due to their league commitments, but they’re still a very competitive side,” stated Murad. “But we believe we can still beat them as we did two years ago here in Islamabad.”

Pakistan’s next assignment is the Asian Volleyball Confederation Cup in Bahrain and Murad believes the Central Asian Championship offers them ideal preparation for the continent’s premier tournament.

“A good performance will definitely help us at the AVC Cup,” he said. “It’s always good to go into a tournament on a winning high.”

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024

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