How much will Amjyot Singh's latest ban impact Indian basketball?

Amjyot Singh during India's game against Japan at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship
Amjyot Singh during India's game against Japan at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship

We are still processing the news of Amjyot Singh's three-year ban from the Indian basketball team. Stemming from a roadside brawl during a November training camp in Bengaluru, Amjyot, along with Arshpreet Bhullar, were banned for a period of three years and one year respectively.

This is the second time in two years that Amjyot has been slapped with a ban. He had previously already served a one-year suspension between June 2018 to 2019.

Despite the latest ban coming into force on December 26th, both the players ended up representing Punjab in the Senior Nationals. So it remains to be seen if the ban will actually be implemented.

On the assumption that it will, Amjyot's ban in particular, is a big blow to the Indian national basketball team, considering that he has been the mainstay in almost all of the team's historic wins in the last decade.

In an interview with Powersportz, former India international Sandeep Singh felt that Amjyot's absence from the team will just make an "unnees, bees ka farak". Translated into English, according to Mr Sandeep Singh, the difference between not having versus having Amjyot is merely the difference between the numbers 19 and 20. In other words, the former international feels that Amjyot's ban will have a minimal impact on the team. He goes on to add that there are many players, especially from Senior Nationals' runners up team Tamil Nadu, who can suitably replace Amjyot in the Indian national team.

But is that really the case?

Making a case for Amjyot Singh

Besides being the only Indian national basketball player to have played back to back seasons in the NBA G League, Amjyot Singh is a different beast altogether when he suits up for India.

Nicknamed by FIBA commentators as the 'Sultan of Swat', Amjyot is an integral part of India's 'Big Three' alongside guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and centre Amritpal Singh. This 'Big Three' was the primary reason behind all of India's famous wins in the 2010s against China, Angola (both twice), Philippines and Chinese Taipei.

As a stretch four, Amjyot acts as a bridge between the backcourt and the frontcourt. With excellent handles for his size, Amjyot also frequently doubles up as a point forward, whenever shooting guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi plays at the point guard position.

Amjyot's contributions for India

Amjyot's numbers speak for themselves.

At the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup (where India posted its historic maiden win over China), Amjyot led all scorers for India averaging 14.7 PPG.

At the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge (where India again beat China as well as Philippines and Taipei to finish an impressive 7th), Amjyot averaged 12.8 PPG and 8.3 RPG, on a +14.1 per game efficiency. In all these three categories, Amjyot was among the top 10 forwards in Asia. In fact, Amjyot's rebounding numbers were among the top three among all Asian forwards in the tournament.

The versatile Amjyot is also experienced in the increasingly popular 3x3 format. In fact, he is the only Indian national to be ever ranked as the number one 3x3 player in the entire Asia/Oceania region. Amjyot was also part of the Indian origin quartet that finished runners up at the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Finals in 2016.

Why Indian team will sorely miss Amjyot

It is important to also highlight here that during Amjyot's earlier one year ban period, India lost two crucial World Cup Asian Qualifiers games to Syria and Jordan. Additionally, prior to the ban period, at the February window of the same World Cup Asian Qualifiers campaign, Amjyot Singh was mysteriously not allowed to play both home games, despite being present in the stadium.

These losses resulted in India getting eliminated in the first round itself, despite the benefit of a favourable grouping.

All of the above arguments prove how vital Amjyot Singh's presence/absence has been in dictating the fortunes of the Indian national team.

India has two key Championships coming up: the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers in February 2020, and the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in March 2020. The latter, in fact, will be hosted by India.

Considering Amjyot's proven credentials and contributions in both formats of the game, his current age (at 27 he is entering his peak years) and the upcoming tournaments, this three-year ban couldn't have come at a worse time for both Amjyot and Indian basketball.

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Edited by Raunak J
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