ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): Jai Prakash Singh has had a ring-side view of the status of Indian basketball in the recent past. Or shall we say the 58-year-old has been the ring master himself.
At the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship at Nha Trang City (Vietnam) last October, JP Singh was the coach of the Indian team that won two back-to-back games for the first time in recent memory when the competition was yet alive for medals in any FIBA Asia competition.
“How do such stats matter when we are doing well,” he had quipped then.
So we posed him the same question again after India finished 10th, having qualified for the Second Round for the time in eight years – India’s previous best finish was the quarterfinal entry at the 18th FIBA Asia U18 Championship in front of a home crowd at Bangalore in 2004.
And the reply too was, not surprisingly, on similar lines.
“You see, this team is not exactly the same as the one that played in Nha Trang. We don’t have Satnam (Singh Bhamara), but have brought a new youngster as our center (in Palpreet Singh Brar).
“Ajay Pratap Singh, one of the players who played a key role in Vietnam was injured after the first game here.
“So I can say that his team is almost as new as you can get. And we have played well beyond expectations,” he said.
“Apart from Hong Kong, all the teams we played against had come with some exposure camps or the other. We had only training camps. The fact of the matter is this team came here without playing even a single game together international or otherwise.
“I do believe that lack of enough exposure trips and games is a major hindrance in the progress of Indian basketball. There are only a certain things that can be taught in training camps and without a game there is hardly any course correction. A player who does extremely well in practice comes a cropper when faced with a similar situation.
“This is exactly what happened to us when we played our first game against Lebanon here. I do believe that the result of that game might have been different if my boys had faced with game situations. You cannot repeat or simulate game situations in practice,” he explained.
Sustenance is the need
“The need of the hour is to sustain this progress. It’s true we have fallen behind against some teams in the last decade or so. But we have shown in two consecutive FIBA Asia events that India has the potential to regain the space that rightfully belongs to them.
“Now, it’s for us to work towards claiming what we think belongs to us with proper planning and perseverance. Nobody else will hand it to us.”
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia