Jagdeep Bains: A story of hope and all things basketball
He was towering over me when I met him, but Jagdeep Bains, an ex-India player was less overpowering and more humble in his candid chat about how much he loves the game of Basketball.
Playing for Mumbai Challengers at the UBA, India’s first basketball league; Bains has been through a whirlwind journey in his service to Indian Basketball. The big guy from Ganganagar, Rajasthan started playing basketball in 2002 and represented the Indian national side at a meager age of 19. He is 30 years old now, but his skill and eye for basket would still make an audience ask the question “How did he do that?”
Playing basketball after a 3-year injury break, the UBA has given Bains a platform to do what he loves best; listen to the swish of the basketball net.
“Khelne ka mann kiya kyoonki basketball se pyaar itna hain”
You could see the pain in his eyes when he said it. Only a professional sportsman would understand the agony of not playing the sport through injury. And 3 years is a long time.
“In 2012 I had a back injury. I had to say goodbye to Basketball. I had check-ups for a year. This happened in China during a 3 on 3 tournament. It was not serious injury, but I still played and it got worse. Sitting on the bed for 1-2 years was tough but I had to deal with it. My mind was not in a good state. Sometimes I even felt like crying. Everyone was playing and I was just there in bed. It was tough”
Bains was treated in Delhi and he was disappointed that the federation didn’t help him during the toughest phase of his career. After recovery when the UBA called up the big man, he had no hesitation in giving a thumbs up.
“When I got injured nobody asked me anything. Nobody helped me. Whoever helped me it was my family. I was obviously angry. I played so many games. I gave everything to the game, but these guys didn’t help. After recovery I didn’t care about anything else, but I started to practice by myself and I dint know if I would ever play again. I didn’t know about UBA's first season and when the call came I said ‘Yes’. I went to their camp and my fitness got better”
Basketball is slowly and steadily finding its way in India
Basketball. A game overpowered by the strengths of Cricket and now even Kabaddi in India is slowly findings its way among the Indian folklore. Jagdeep wishes that the idea of a basketball league should have been setup in India long ago. He thinks it’s the youngsters who have time on their hands to capitalize on India’s road towards a multi sport future.
“What UBA is doing right now, it should have been done 4-5 years back. It is very good. They are giving so much, it is a big thing for basketball. In our country we have a lot of talent. In the senior nationals and tournament likewise seniors always get the chance, but the juniors don’t. They fall back. They don’t get a tournament like experience. In the UBA every player plays, so you know who plays well and who doesn't. Just like the IPL”
He compared the development to other Asian countries where a basketball league has already been set up.
“In Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh it’s been 5-6 years since there has been a league. Just like that if India had stared something, like Satnam has gone, maybe two or more 3 players would have gone”
Jagdeep has a long way to go before he gets back to complete fitness and be able to be available to play for India again. But the Ludhiana Basketball Academy graduate says that he is not worried about that at the moment and he wants to focus on improving his weaknesses rather than think about his future.
In a country like ours, it is very easy to get demotivated when you think about a future in a game like Basketball, but the power forward doesn’t care about it as long as he gets to hold that ball and shoot some jumpers.
“After coming to basketball I never thought of playing any other game. It was all basketball. I never got demotivated. When I got the basketball in my hand then no game came to my mind”
Bains has Coach S. Subramanian to thank who coached him and Satnam Singh, who is now plying his trade in the NBA. Learning the basics of the game is most important and Bains emphasizes that it’s the basics that the youngster’s lack today.
“He helped me learn the basic. If he wasn’t there I wouldn’t have got my quality to this level. Juniors have height, speed and jump but they don’t have the skill. Ball control is not there. Shooting is not good. This is what the coach taught me first. First I thought what are you saying? Then I realized everything that he said is working in my life”
When I asked him if he still has it in to compete at the highest level, Bains was modest but confident of what lies.
“Hum kahan young rahe aab”
“If I get back my fitness then I think I can easily play for 3-4 years”
The story of Jagdeep Bains symbolizes the story of Basketball in India. It’s tough, yet with persistence, you can scale great heights. I’m using the word “heights” in the most literal sense possible. While the UBA has given hope to the game in India, there is still a long way to go before people think jumping can be sexy too.