Monday, September 21, 2015

FIBA Asia Championship: Indian men cagers have their task cut out

Indian basketball has attracted a lot of bad press in recent months thanks to two feuding rival factions competing over whom who will run the sport in the country and FIBA’s recognition to the K Govindraj-faction breathed some life into the sport in the country as things started limping back to normalcy.

Much to the relief of the country’s basketball lovers, the focus has shifted to on-court developments – the latest being the Indian men’s basketball team gearing up to take on the might of reigning champions Iran, Japan and Malaysia in the 28th FIBA Asia Basketball Championship beginning in Changsha, China from Wednesday. The national team has a new head coach in Sat Prakash Yadav, a former player and former national women national team coach. The Indian is coming off a strenuous training camp at Nitte, near Mangalore in Karnataka, and is now looking to put their best forward in the upcoming 28th edition. “The team has worked really hard at the camp in Nitte. We are confident of doing well in the 28th FIBA Asia Basketball Championship. We know Iran and Japan are tough opponents in our pool but we will give our best shot,” Indian player Yadwinder Singh said on the eve of the team’s departure. Led by vastly experienced Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, the team will bank heavily on the duo of Amrit Pal Singh and Amjyot Singh – who have been playing professionally in Japan's D-League. India, of course, will miss the services of 19-year-old Satnam Singh Bhamara, who earlier this year became the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA but chose to focus on developing his club career instead of wearing the national jersey.

The Indian men’s basketball haven’t had a great run in the FIBA Asia Basketball Championship in recent years, finishing the outside the top-ten in last five editions – they last attained a top-10 finish in the 2003 and 2001 editions, where they finished 8th each time. India have never made it to the top-six of this event for twenty-seven years now since last finishing 6th in the 1989 edition at Beijing. Interestingly, India used to regularly feature in the top-7 in the initial years of the FIBA Asia Basketball Championship, which started in 1960 – India missed the first two editions and made their debut in the 1965 edition in Kuala Lumpur, where they settled for the 7th spot. It was Kuala Lumpur, where India made their best-ever finish taking the 4th spot. India have finished 5th thrice in the 1969 edition in Bangkok, 1979 edition in Nagoya and 1983 edition in Kolkata. The odds are clearly stacked against the Indian men’s team but the kind of talent they possess, one can expect them to improve on their 11th place finish in the 2013 edition in Manila and even pull off a top-10 finish for the first time since 2003 or probably spring even bigger surprises.

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