He brings experience to the Indian men’s basketball team. Yadwinder Singh has been part of many battles which the national team have waged over the years since making his international debut in 2005. Son of a farmer, he hails from Rasulpur Khurd village in Punjab and sharpened his skills at the famous Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) from 2003 to 2007. The 29-year-old, who played a key role in Indian Railways winning the Senior Nationals for three consecutive editions, later switched to ONGC. Yadwinder, who featured in the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, spoke in an exclusive interview.
Q India performed impressively in the recent 2015 South Asian Basketball Championship (SABA) in Bengaluru, in the process qualifying for the upcoming FIBA Asian Championship?
A: Our team really fared well in the SABA championship and it was nice to see our team defend the title. Hopefully our team will do well in future.
Q The national team was without many of its key players – including you and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi for the South Asian Basketball Championship (SABA) tourney.
A: I could not play in the SABA championship as I could not secure the required permission from my employers ONGC. Vishesh also missed it along with a few others. Hopefully I will be available for the forthcoming FIBA Asian Championship.
Q India finished 11th at the 2013 FIBA Asian Championship in Manila. How do you assess our chances in the 2015 edition?
A: It will not be easy. We are placed in Pool A alongside Iran, Japan and Malaysia. Iran are the defending champions and they have won three of the last four Asian championships. so we have to be at our best.
Q You are a product of the famous Ludhiana Basketball Academy, which has also produced the likes of Amyjot Singh and Amritpal Pal Singh.
A: The Ludhiana Basketball Academy is a great place to learn. It has consistently served as a supply line to the national team. In 2011, the Indian team had as many as seven players from LBA and even now there are five or six guys from LBA in the current side. I took my initial basic coaching from Fateh Chand in Amritsar before I honed my skills under late Dr Subramanium at LBA.
Q Indian basketball probably reached a new high when they upset mighty China in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan.
A: It was a big day for Indian basketball – for the first time we beat China 65-58 and that too, in front of their home crowd. We played exceptionally well to get past them and the win really gave us momentum going into the future games.
Q Satnam Singh Bhamara became the first Indian to make it to the NBA – a shot in the arm for Indian basketball.
A: He is a very hardworking and talented and we all are happy to see play in the NBA. I’m sure his feat will inspire more youngsters to pursue basketball seriously.
Q How do you look at the health of Indian basketball?
A: Basketball is getting more and more popular in India. The national team is also improving and starting to beat top teams in Asia or at least give them a run for their money. If you look closely, we don’t lose heavily against top teams as was the case earlier- the points gap has been narrowed in recent times and now the points difference is around ten to fifteen points. Most sports have started a league and an Indian Basketball League like IPL is a must for the sport. I hope IBL happens sooner than later.