Coronavirus lockdown: How to get Indian basketball back on track?

India women's basketball captain P.S. Jeena, who played for Ringwood Hawks in an Australian league last year, calls for national league.

India women's basketball captain P.S. Jeena called for a national league in the country.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT


While tracking the Indian women's basketball team in the last few majors, one often gets the feeling that it can't fall any deeper.

Last in its group in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, similar finishes at the Asia Cup in Bengaluru and in the Olympic pre-qualification tournament in Kuala Lumpur in 2019. Of course, there was the year-ending South Asian Games triumph but that is nothing to crow about.

Now, with the coronavirus pandemic closing the show all over, this is a perfect time to think of solutions.

“We cannot change things with just a two-month camp before the Asiad and with practice games with school and college boys. That's not how national teams prepare,” said Indian captain P.S. Jeena in a chat with Sportstar from her home in Wayanad. She is keeping herself fit with shooting and fitness sessions with her younger sister Jesley, a talented junior.

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“In 2013 when we finished fifth, our best-ever finish at the Asians, we had a five-month camp and a 10-day trip to China to play matches against teams there. And in 2017, when we won the Asian championship's B-division, we had a six-month camp and also played the William Jones Cup (in Chinese Taipei).”

Jeena, who walked away with the 'Most Valuable Player' award at the last Senior Nationals in Ludhiana last year, feels that the country needs some major changes, the first of which will be starting the national league.

“We have been talking about having a league for a long time, almost all sports have a league, only if something like that happens, we will have a major change,” said the 26-year-old.

Jeena played for Ringwood Hawks in an Australian league last year and it was an eye-opener for the power forward.

“They don't just have the higher league but many smaller leagues, like the Victoria Junior League. Every week you have matches. Here, even for seniors, you just have the Senior Nationals and the Federation Cup and a few all-India and state-level tournaments. We practise every day but game situations are fewer.”

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She feels that even states like Kerala can gain if they go for their own league.

“Kerala has two dominant teams in KSEB and Kerala Police, so matches are often one-sided as the others don't come anywhere close. If the state association KBA comes forward and puts three pro players from these two sides in each team and conducts a week-long league with six or seven equal teams, basketball will hit a new high. And if they add school and college players in these sides, it will be an experience for the youngsters too, make them stronger and bolder.”

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