SABA Basketball Championship Helps Basketball’s Popularity in India

By Rohit Ghosh
Photo courtesy of BFI Facebook

The champs have been crowned. After dominating Maldives 108-32, the senior Indian men’s team completed a rout of the third South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Championship. India finished the tournament 4-0 after taking care of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal in the first three rounds. It has now qualified for the fifth FIBA Asia Cup, a much more competitive tournament set to be held in China in mid-July.

India’s 12-man roster for SABA tournament:

Joginder Singh
Akilan Akil
Vishesh Bhriguvanshi
Narender Kumar Grewal
Vinay Kaushik
Prakash Mishra
Pratham Singh
Ranbir Singh
Yadwinder Singh
Amjyot Singh
Gill Rikin
Pethani Amrit
Pal Singh

Head coach: Scott Flemming

Surprisingly, it was India’s size and height advantage that helped the team cruise through the tournament. In the championship game, Maldives struggled to even get within 10-15 feet of the basket; India, on the other hand, got most of their production in the paint. Even in their first round game against Bangladesh, India was able to hold their opponent to just 39 points for the game. The squad’s toughest matchup of the tournament came in the third round against Nepal. India won 74-41 behind Mishra’s 17 points.

While some international sports writers are critical of the lack of competition within the SABA tournament, India’s domination is especially useful in terms of the growth of the sport in India. Dominating neighboring countries in basketball helps foster a certain feeling of competitiveness and triumph. India’s defense in the SABA Basketball Championship was firing on all cylinders, and must continue to do so if they want to taste success in the FIBA Asia Cup.

The level of intensity should and will increase in the FIBA Asia Cup. As of now, however, the only other teams that have qualified for the tournament are China and Iran. The remainder of the tournament participants have yet to be determined. India finished in last place in 2012 in Tokyo, Japan when the tournament was last played; they have never finished better than fifth.

As NBA India continues to increase its influence on the sports fans of India, how successful the Indian team can be in competitions will play a big role in the sport’s growth. India is clearly the best amongst South Asian countries — next up, time to dominate all of Asia.

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