Yesterday, at a press conference in Bengaluru, the Basketball Federation of India announced the Indian men's squad for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers.
The team will be led by 28-year-old veteran Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and will play two away games in its first window: against Bahrain (on 21st February) and against Iraq (on 24th February).
Besides Bhriguvanshi, other experienced names in the team include Jagdeep Singh Bains, Amritpal Singh (both Punjab), Joginder Singh (Air Force/Haryana), Aravind Annadurai (Tamil Nadu) and Arvind Arumugam (Karnataka). Tamil Nadu's Muin Bek and Prasanna Venkatesh also have prior international experience.
Among the youngsters are Punjab's twin towers Princepal Singh and Amaan Sandhu. Both are trainees at NBA's elite Academy programmes.
The team will be coached by Serbian Veselin Matic, who will be assisted by a four-member strong support staff comprising two assistant coaches, a physio and a manager.
The full squad details can be accessed here.
Analyzing India's chances
Besides Bahrain and Iraq, India's preliminary Group D also features the in-form Lebanon. After competing in a home and away format over three windows, the top two teams from each group will qualify for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup.
Thereafter, six third-place teams from each group will also play another round of Qualifiers in February 2021, after which the top four teams will also progress to the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 (making it a total of 16 teams at the continental event).
While India will be aiming for direct qualification, considering its form in recent years, its road will be far from easy. The men's national team finished winless in the FIBA World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers, losing twice to lower-ranked Syria. While the squad has been training in Bengaluru for around two months, it has not had the benefit of playing any quality exposure games prior to this event. India's last competitive outing was a triumphant run at the South Asian Games last December, which needless to say doesn't come close to the level of opposition the side will be up against in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers.
The Indian team is also missing the services of its outspoken star forward Amjyot Singh, who, along with guard Arshpreet Singh Bhullar, is serving a ban. Crowd favourite centre Satnam Singh, meanwhile, is undergoing a provisional doping suspension.
Despite all of the above challenges, at least on paper, India (74) is ranked above Bahrain (113) and Iraq (79), so the side will be aiming for a clean sweep in the opening window. But the fact that both games are being played away from home will naturally make things tougher for our 'Young Cagers'.