The partnership of Akhin GS and Naveen Raja Jacob is a testament to great determination and unyielding spirit in RuPay Prime Volleyball League Powered by A23. As integral members of Chennai Blitz, these two players have left a significant mark on the franchise and the broader landscape of Indian volleyball.

Akhin GS: A Towering Presence

Akhin GS's journey through the RuPay Prime Volleyball League is worth revisiting. Standing tall at 6 feet 8 inches, the 30-year-old was the most expensive player for the Chennai franchise in the inaugural season. Akhin's proficiency in blocking, a crucial defensive skill, had earned him a place in his first senior nationals for Tamil Nadu in 2013. The following year, he moved on to play for Kerala and has remained a member of the team since 2014. His imposing presence at the net often leaves opponents struggling to penetrate his defence.

Muhammad Sari, a retired police official and former volleyball player, taught him the basics of volleyball and insisted that he should take up the sport. Later, Akhin joined Sri Krishna Arts and Science College in Coimbatore, where he met G. E. Sridharan, former men’s national volleyball player, Arjuna Awardee, and the then national coach. It was Sridharan who suggested that he should become a blocker and focus more on the defensive skill set.

In 2013, Akhin made it to the national camp, but unfortunately, not to the team. Two years later, in 2015, he made it to the side, playing his first Asian Championships. He has been in the team ever since. Akhin is part of the Kerala team, which still is among the top three in senior nationals (barring one year) and has won two golds, one silver, and three bronze medals.

Naveen Raja Jacob: A Force to Reckon with

Naveen Raja Jacob, born on January 10, 1989, in Sundankottai village, Thoothukudi district, Tamil Nadu, has carved a remarkable path in the world of volleyball through dedication and skill. Recognized by his brother for his inherent talent, Naveen took his first steps onto the volleyball court in 2003. His journey gained momentum in 2007 when his team in Vijayawada clinched the National Championship title, bringing him national attention and recognition. The accolades did not stop there; his outstanding performance earned him a position in the Indian Overseas Bank in the same year.

In 2007, Naveen was selected for the Senior Tamil Nadu team, and in the same year, he earned a spot in the Indian team for the Youth World Championship in Mexico. Since 2008, Naveen has represented the Indian team, while also remaining a prominent player of the Senior Tamil Nadu team. His caps include appearances in events such as the Asian Games in 2010 and 2014; the Senior Asian Championships in 2009, 2011, and 2013; the South Asian Games; and various other international invitational tournaments.

Naveen's ability to lead by example was the reason he was retained by the franchise and given the captain’s armband in Season 2 of the RuPay Prime Volleyball League Powered by A23 as Chennai Blitz looked for redemption.

Impact on Chennai Blitz:

The partnership of Akhin GS and Naveen Raja Jacob has defined Chennai Blitz's identity. Playing together and winning several matches while representing Tamil Nadu at the Senior National Championship 2013, their cohesive gameplay, mutual understanding, and commitment to victory have been the driving forces behind the franchise's performance in the RuPay Prime Volleyball League Powered by A23. Both players have exemplified sportsmanship, teamwork, and perseverance, inspiring teammates and fans alike.

Akhin GS has been the top blocker for Chennai Blitz, while also being one of the top five blockers in both seasons of RuPay Prime Volleyball League Powered by A23. In Season 1, Akhin stopped 14 attacks at a 44.6% success rate. He stepped up his attacking tally in Season 2, managing 38 attack points in addition to 9 block points, making him one of Chennai’s most important assets.

If Akhin has been the strongest shield, skipper Naveen Raja Jacob could rightly be called Chennai’s sharpest spear. Naveen scored 50 points in Season 1 at a 45.5% success rate, managing to be the franchise’s top attacker. In the second season, he secured 30 attack points while grabbing 6 points from the serve line.

Despite boasting a roster of top-tier talent, Chennai's poor form has persisted, and they have struggled to find their footing both offensively and defensively. They have managed to secure just 3 wins from their 13 matches in the league, including three 5-0 sweeps.

Looking ahead:

As the RuPay Prime Volleyball League Powered by A23 evolves, the partnership of Akhin GS and Naveen Raja Jacob remains crucial to Chennai Blitz's journey. The franchise representing the capital city of Tamil Nadu will be looking to add more firepower and cohesion into the team to redeem themselves in the seasons to come. As for the dynamic duo of Akhin GS and Naveen Raja Jacob, their impact on the team's performance, contributions to Indian volleyball, and ability to inspire the next generation, solidify their place as respected figures in the sport.