The UBA Pro Basketball League 2016 is heading towards its end. The second edition of this groundbreaking tournament has witnessed thrills, spills, star turns and surprise outfits. With TEN Sports beaming the event all across the country, exposure has only increased.
While it has given basketball fans in India renewed hopes of a bright future, the whole UBA experience has been a special one for the players too. Delhi Capitals star Vinay Kaushik will nod in agreement to that.
The 24-year old was named MVP of Season 2 in the awards ceremony held in Hyderabad on Friday. With a host of top players vying for the top prize, it was only natural for Kaushik to feel overjoyed. “I never expected to be the most valuable player. I must thank my amazing teammates and coaches. They had great faith in my ability and I am glad that I Iived up to their expectations,” said the 6’2” guard after the ceremony.
Faith and expectations – it has been a running theme throughout the season for the Delhi Capitals and Vinay Kaushik. Whenever Delhi Capitals found themselves in trouble, they turned to Vinay, putting all their hopes on him and boy, did he rise to the occasion.
Back in the league phase, Delhi were locked 66-66 in a hard fought battle with the Haryana Gold when Vinay downed a buzzer beater to clinch the game for the Capitals. It was that kind of form which gave Delhi a 6-1 record in the league phase.
But the biggest Vinay Kaushik performance of all came in Game 2 of their semifinal series against Mumbai Challengers. After losing Game 1, Delhi found themselves in a tight spot at the end of the third quarter, trailing 42-48. Staring at elimination, it was going to be do-or-die.
Who better then to step up than Vinay? He put on a blistering scoring show, racking 15 points in the final quarter to stun a Mumbai side that couldn’t figure what hit them.
“It was great, we needed this win. It was do-or-die for us; we just had to win, I gave my best and it happened. In the first few quarters, our team was doing great and I wasn’t too selfish; I didn’t go to the rim much because there was no space. But in the final quarter, I had to take the initiative myself and that’s why I had to go off (like that). My team trusts me a lot and that’s why I was able to do it,” he told Sportskeeda after that match-saving Player of the Match performance.
But Vinay was not done yet. He went on to contribute 16 points in Game 3 as Delhi reached the final following a masterful 78-69 win over Mumbai. He was on top of the world when I caught up with him after the game. “We maintained the rhythm from the last match; we knew we were going to win. We started like champions and we ended like champions!”
Reaching the final has been yet another highlight in a career of rises for the son of an ex-Serviceman from the Rohtak district of Haryana. “Till 10th standard, I never played any basketball. But there was a court near my house. Some people once came and started taking me to games. Gradually, I took up the game and came to love it. I played for the my village team, and then the Rohtak and Haryana teams,” said Vinay, looking back at his beginnings.
However, it was the captial city of India which would change his career. “Later I moved to Delhi for my higher studies, where I played for 7 years and it was also where I appeared in six internationals for India, of which I was captain for three games. I already knew (Delhi Capitals) coach Mukesh Bishnoi from then and we had a plan that we would get back together and do something again. That is what happened when the UBA began.”
From playing in a village team in Haryana to captaining India and appearing at the FIBA Asia Championship, Vinay Kaushik thought he had seen it all. But that was before the UBA came into town.
Apart from wider exposure, Vinay feels particularly excited by the level of play at the tournament. “UBA has been a good experience for me. There is a high standard of play and all the teams are balanced. You need to give your best in every single minute in order to win.”
So what lies next for the MVP? For the time being, he has to deal with the challenge of defeating Chennai Slam and to win the UBA title with his Delhi Capitals team. They may have lost Game 1 but coming back from a losing position is familiar territory for Vinay. You can never write this man off.Published 02 Apr 2016, 19:15 IST