BENGALURU : When it comes to basketball, countries like USA, Spain and Serbia dominate the sport. India are nowhere in the picture, and their situation does not look great in Asia too. But the present bunch of players are helping India move in the right direction. Their biggest test will come in the upcoming Commonwealth Games, which will help them understand where they stand. However, players like Satnam Singh, Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh, with their stints abroad, have helped place India’s name on the basketball map. The sport will be making its second appearance in CWG, and India, pooled alongside Cameroon, England and Scotland in Group B, will be hoping for the big three to deliver at Gold Coast.
Amritpal and Amjyot missed India’s last two World Cup Asian qualifiers matches at home, against Jordan and Lebanon, but their return has been seen as a huge boost to the entire contingent ahead of the quadrennial event with India playing their first match against Cameroon on April 5. “Some of the players like Amjyot and Amritpal, who were not present in the recent qualifiers, are also in the squad. They will definitely strengthen the squad. Their presence will make a huge difference to the team. Other players are also pleased to see them in the team and confidence has increased,” India coach Rajinder Singh told Express over the phone from Australia.
Though India, to a certain extent, will depend on the big three, it is not going to be enough if they are to win their first ever CWG medal in basketball. All the players need to play their role to the T consistently and produce a positive result. The likes of Aravind Annadurai and Akilan Pari will also have to be at their best.
For India to reach the semifinals, they have to finish first or second in their group, which will allow them a chance to feature in the qualifying finals (virtual quarterfinal) and play either the third or fourth-placed team in Group A, which includes the top four seeds. The winner will reach the final four Reaching the semifinal will be an achievement in itself after their poor show in the 2006 CWG, where India returned home without a single win, finishing last. Things have improved since then and it would be great for Indian basketball if they can win a medal. Rajinder wants all his players to come to the party in Australia for a memorable outing.
“See, you have to understand that the team is not only dependent on Amritpal, Amjyot and Satnam. There are various other players who are also good. Aravind Annadurai, Yadwinder Singh, Arvind Arumugam and Akilan Pari — all these players have to contribute for good results,” said Rajinder, who is quite happy with the way training has gone in Australia. The team had left early to acclimatise to the conditions. “Overall, the team is very strong. We are well-prepared for a good show. We have strong players in different positions and hope to do well,” said Rajinder.