India is generally not regarded as a basketball nation and they are no.61 out of 215 FIBA members as per the latest world ranking. Unlike other nations of Asia, Europe, North and South America, the game of basketball does not catch the fancy of an ordinary sports lover in India. Lack of serious attempts to raise the game’s standard at appropriate levels and absence of corporate sponsorship are two main reasons why India continue to be laggards at international level. Regardless, in the ongoing 16-nation FIBA Asia Championship at China, India have emerged among the top eight teams in Asia. The 28th edition of the tournament is significant because the winner will be entitled to play in next year’s Rio Olympic Games. The second, third and fourth-placed teams will earn the right to participate in the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. India’s chances are slim since they now face China, which is the no.1 Asian nation and no.14 ranked Basketball nation in the world.
India had a good performance at league stage, where they were bracketed in Group A with Iran, Japan and Malaysia. India routed Malaysia 102-73 in their first league match on September 23. Next day, they lost to Iran 66-88 and on September 25, they suffered another loss against Japan. However, the Indian hoopsters still sailed into the second round since they were among the top three in their Group. Iran topped the Group A with Japan right behind while the Malaysians were eliminated.
In the second round, India were placed in Group E that also had Philippines, Iran, Japan, Palestine and Hong Kong. Indian needed to play against the three new teams; Philippines, Palestine and Hong Kong. In their first match on September 27against Palestine, India scored a 73-70 win and on September 28, they defeated Hong Kong 76-71. Although India lost the their third match on September 29 against Philippines 65-99, they still qualified for the knock-out phase of the tournament on the basis of their better head-to-head performance against the Palestine, who also had a 2-3 Group record.
In almost all their matches, India’s Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh played superbly and scored vital points. These two hugely built players found the space to reach the basket regularly. Both Amjyot and Amritpal have been playing in the Japanese developmental league and this exposure showed their professional approach in the matches that India played. Against Philippines on Tuesday, India made a strong start and finished the first quarter with a lead of 17-16. However, Philippines bounced back in the second quarter with some clean shooting and reversed the situation to lead 42-36 at halftime. Indian hoopsters looked tired in the third and fourth quarters, conceding several points. Even so, India’s captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi led the team with 21 points while Amritpal scored 18 with 13 rebounds. Somehow, Amjyot Singh couldn’t click against the Filipinos and he scored only 11 with 5 rebounds. Though India lost 65-99, they made it to the quarterfinals and will now face China, who defeated Qatar. The India-China match will be played on October 1.