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Indian basketball needs to aim higher than South Asian Dominance

EXPERT
Feature
Modified 21 Dec 2019, 01:18 IST

Indian basketball contingent at the 2019 South Asian Games [Image: Basketball Federation of India]
Indian basketball contingent at the 2019 South Asian Games [Image: Basketball Federation of India]

Earlier this December, India's basketball teams swept all four gold medals on offer at the 13th South Asian Games held in Nepal. The Indian men and women's teams were crowned champs in both the traditional 5x5 and shorter 3x3 formats.

In the 5x5 category, the scorelines of India's men and women teams read as follows:

Men: 138-63 vs Bhutan, 125-63 vs Sri Lanka (both league round games); 101-62 vs Sri Lanka (finals)

Women: 156-33 vs Maldives, 136-50 vs Sri Lanka (both league games); 127-46 vs Nepal (finals)

The 3x3 section saw expectedly closer games, considering their much shorter 10-minute durations. But even here, barring Indian men's final round-robin game against Nepal, our teams managed to beat all opponents by eight points or more.

Time for a reality check?

While our entire contingent should be congratulated for its dominating performance, it is high time Indian basketball started seriously aspiring for bigger accomplishments beyond the South Asian region.

For those of us following international and Asian basketball, it has long been established that India is a regional powerhouse in South Asia. Our national teams regularly make a habit of beating our much smaller neighbours like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives by an average of 30 points or more.

Going by the victory margins at the 2019 South Asian Games, this trend only seems to be getting stronger. 

India's gold medals may well have carried more weight had relatively taller South Asian teams like Pakistan and Afghanistan participated. But in their absence, all our contests were predictably lopsided affairs of a Goliath beating down on a bunch of hapless Davids.

No doubt, it has been a rough last few years for Indian basketball with the men's team getting knocked out in the first round of the FIBA World Cup 2019-Asian Qualifiers, and the women getting relegated to Asia-Oceania's Division B earlier this September.

So the relief and jubilation of the Indian national team players putting up self-congratulatory posts on social media is understandable, but still hard to digest.

For Indian basketball to be taken seriously at the Asia-Oceania continental level, a lot more needs to done by all stakeholders, starting with an overhaul in the functioning of our national basketball federation. Otherwise, we run the risk of being labelled big fish in a little pond, satisfied with being bullies in own backyard, but afraid to take on opponents of our own size.

Published 11 Dec 2019, 13:15 IST
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