By Nakul Arora:
There are so many games in India which are so widely prevalent in the schooling and college arena across the country. We all would have been associated and played at least one of them. However, have you ever wondered as to where do all these sports disappear the moment we exit college? They are mostly never mentioned by the press and even when they are, it’s mostly to discuss upon their apathetic state or the behaviour of the sport’s managing authorities rather than an achievement by its sportsmen. One of these sports is Basketball. This article is not another one of the attempts to highlight the apathetic position of Basketball or its athletes; it’s just an attempt to bring to light its achievements and current state of affairs.
Yes, India does have a national Basketball team that represents it at all international events. It plays with the name of Young Cagers is currently ranked 58th in the world. India also has a women’s national hockey team which is currently ranked 39th in the world. Basketball in India is controlled by Basketball federation of India (BFI) which is, as its website www.indiaBasketball.org puts, is responsible for the development and promotion of the sport in the country. It also is the main organizer of almost all the major events across the country. Other than BFI, there are a lot of state associations which are helping BFI run the sport across the country.
Basketball goes way back in India with it being played first time way back in 1930 and the first national championship for men was organized in 1934 in New Delhi. The Indian national team became a member of FIBA (the international authority of Basketball) in 1936 itself so as to be able to take part in international events. After independence, BFI was established in 1950 for the proper regulation and promotion of the sport. In-fact, the sport is quite famous at the school and college level but is yet to gain any fame at the national level. It also suffers, like other sports, from the lack of adequate infrastructure and opportunities for the youth to pursue it as a career. However, the condition for Basketball in the country looks quite optimistic.
There are many government bodies which have their professional teams. Some of them being: Indian Overseas Bank in Tamil Nadu, Indian Bank in Karnataka, MTNL in New Delhi, ONGC in Uttrakhand, Indian Railways etc. These teams represent their organizations as well as the states. Also, many championships for senior, junior, and youth levels for boys and girls are organized across the country. Invitational all-India tournaments like Master Prithvinath Memorial (New Delhi), Don Bosco Invitational Tournament (Mumbai), Ramu Memorial (Mumbai), and many other tournaments in the southern part of India are organized annually. India, unlike other major countries, doesn’t follow the seasons and tournaments that are organized here throughout the year. However, championships for the youth are organized mainly during the months of May and June, due to the summer vacation factor.
At the international level, the Indian teams make a regular presence at the FIBA Asia championships, 22 times till date, and is placed in the top 5 in appearances in the tournament. Unfortunately, the results don’t match the appearances with India having its most successful tournament in 1975, where it managed to make it to the top-four. Indian team also appeared in the Summer Olympics of 1980, the team got the chance to represent Asia due to several teams pulling out in favour of the famous American-led boycott. It finished 12 out of 12 in the games, with its performance being abysmal. The Indian team (men and women) is yet to make any appearance in the FIBA world championships. The women’s team has never featured in the Olympics but is a regular at the Asian championships, having featured 15 times in them. India also has had some promising Basketball players, some of them being: Sozhasingarayer Robinson and Ajemr Singh. Also, there have been 15 Arjuna awardees from Basketball so far. However, there is yet to be a NBA player of Indian origin
The situation for Basketball looks promising in the future with there being a major deal between IMG-Reliance and BFI. Under this deal, IMG-Reliance has won over all commercial rights to Basketball in India for the next 30 years with the promise of developing the game across the country. The partnership between IMG and Reliance is set to see a surge in development of infrastructure for the games across the country and also, the group has promised to deliver India’s first professional Basketball league. Hopefully, this deal will lead to the development of Basketball at every level- from grassroots to a professional league.
NBA, National Basketball Association of America has also recognises the huge talent and potential of Basketball in India and has shown its commitment to developing Basketball across India by forming a partnership with the Mahindra Group to start a recreational league for the age group of 14-18 year olds. Hopefully the investments made in the sport by these big conglomerates will lead to the boost up of the potential in the sport. The picture looks good for the young, aspiring Basketball players across the country and hopefully the vision of BFI, which is to make Basketball a much-watched and popular sport across the country might be realised sooner. We also might get to see the first player of Indian origin playing in the NBA. I am all positive about the sport, I hope so are all of you?