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I was there: 1st All India Invitational Basketball Tournament in Chandigarh

Chandigarh always had a decent basketball squad every year and have produced some international players but still the level of basketball isn’t that high. In National competitions, Chandigarh usually finishes in the bottom half of the standings every year and there have’t been any decent tournaments in Chandigarh in the past.

The only proposed indoor wooden stadium to be build in Chandigarh Sector 42 has been in construction for the last 3-4 years and isn’t opening any time soon.

The Chandigarh Administration, amidst the dearth of events, have tried to promote basketball in the city with its 1st All India Invitational Basketball Tournament at the Sector 46 Complex Courts from March 8-12, 2013.

Eight of India’s top Men’s clubs teams have been invited to take  part in the first edition

Group A: ONGC, Indian Army, Rail Coach Factory, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

Group B: Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), Punjab Armed Police, Rest of Punjab and hosts Chandigarh.

All matches were played under floodlights. The winners will take home a pay cheque of Rs 1.5 lakh, runners-up Rs 75,000 and third position holders Rs 50,000, besides glittering trophies.

I have to say, the effort put in by the Chandigarh Administration was pretty awesome. The basketball court where I used to play ball for the last few years was completely transformed with new hydraulic rims, digital scoreboards, digital shot-clocks, the court was colored, there was proper catering service for the guests, and great seating arrangements.

The Digital score-board.

The digital score-board.

The Chandigarh Administration did their best to organize a great tournament.

GROUP STAGES

IOB won all their group matches comfortably and finished top of the group B. ONGC also won all their matches although they had to fight for them and most wins were taken away in the very last quarter except for the 86-53 blowout win against CRPF where ONGC’s marksmen Trideep Rai scored a tournament high 40 points.

Hosts Chandigarh and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) exited the group states with a total of 0 wins.

Punjab Armed Police finished second in Group B, defeating Rest of Punjab and Chandigarh, and entered the semis. The same was the case with the Indian Army who defeated RCF and CRPF to enter the semi-finals.

Trideep Rai former captain of Indian Basketball team.

Trideep Rai, former captain of Indian Basketball team.

SEMI-FINALS

In the semi-finals, Pool A winners ONGC faced Pool B runners-up Punjab Armed Police. In the second semi-final, Pool B leaders Indian Overseas Bank of Chennai were pitted against Pool A runners-up Indian Army.

The first semi-final between ONGC and PAP was a hot affair. ONGC won the first quarter by 21-14. PAP hit back in the high scoring second quarter and won by 30-26. With Gurkirpal (33 pts) showing his  scoring skills, PAP won the third quarter by 18-12.

At the end of third quarter, PAP were leading by 62-59 but again ONGC, like all the previous matches, came back in the 4th quarter and won the quarter 28-14 and the game 87-76. Surprisingly, ONGC’s coach decided to sit Mohit Bhandari and Trideep Rai (their highest scorer so far) for most of the part in the last quarter. Instead he added sharp-shooters Suresh and S. Sridhar to the game which was the tournament’s boldest and most innovative move.

In the second semi-final, Indian Overseas Bank of Chennai snuffed out the challenge of Indian Army by 87-60 points. The IOB played like a well-oiled machine. Their plays were spot-on 9/10 times. They were a lock to find the open shooter at the perimeter. Their efforts to grab the offensive boards are great but their work on defense is exceptional, especially their full-court press. Every time they implement it, they force turnovers but the thing I like the most is that they play like a team, much like the Indian versions of San Antonio Spurs/Denver Nuggets. Nobody is the star, they run the right plays and the most important part is their trust and respect for each other; truly outstanding.

THIRD PLACE: PAP

PAP and Indian Army faced off for the third place match. It was a treat and probably the best match of the tournament with the PAP just edging out the Army-men 72-71.

The game was great. I and my friend were pretty annoyed at the the Indian Army loss. They played really hard all along the tournament and deserved a place but PAP was good too and you have to say they didn’t get anything they didn’t deserve.

FINALS

So to the big moment, the finals. Well, the finals really didn’t live up to its expectations. It was a one-sided affair with IOB pulling out with a big 71-57 win. The IOB-led 25-40 at the half and never looked back from then. There was a low moment when ONGC stopped playing in the 3rd quarter after a whistle from the ref, which their coach though was unjust. The tournament officials then went to the team and they resumed play.

ONGC’s only good moment came when their center Murali Krishan dunked in the 4th quarter, garnering huge cheers from the crowd.

CROWD AND ATMOSPHERE

The crowd was great. On the opening night there were plenty of people to cheer the teams, some of them even gave the players new nicknames. Couples, families, all were there.

On Monday, the semi-finals day, there was a little less crowd than usual. A big reason was that the weekend had ended. I really thought the same would happen with the finals but I was wrong. On the finals day, there was a huge crowd. I even saw some of my friends who I never imagined would be there. The most surprising part was that there were also a few foreigners in the crowd and they even took pictures of the championship squad!

I even managed to get a few pictures with the players.

Myself with Trideep Rai

Trideep Rai (L)

Mohit Bhandari x Murali Krishan Ram x Neeraj

Mohit Bhandari and Murali Krishan Ram

FUTURE

The tournament will continue to take place every year from now on in the indoor stadium of sector 42, if it gets completed by next year.

This time some Indian players didn’t participate as they had just got back from the National Camp. So next time there will be new stars.

There might be new teams added next year if the tournament gets good reviews for the players, which I think it will.

END NOTE 

In the end, I would like to add that the tournament gets a big thumbs-up from me. I know there are many better tournaments held than this one all over India, but basketball hasn’t reached that fan-following and marketability for a person to go out of station to see a match. Therefore tournaments like these really help young minds in understanding and loving the game and indulge the local people as well.

I once remember that during Olympics 2012, my father and brother were forced by me to change the channel and watch the basketball bronze match between Russia and Argentina. You see, I never miss a Manu Ginobili sighting, and in the end I realized that my father were more interested in the game than me. He was calling out on fouls. My father, who hadn’t watched basketball ever before, was calling out on referees! That’s the power of sports. That game made my father understand my love for Ginobili.

All this means that you really didn’t have to know basketball to enjoy it. You can just enjoy it and if this type of tournaments or a big league is held at the stadiums, people will sometime go out and watch it and I’m sure they will like it. Therefore I propose these tournaments be held twice a year.

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