After three defeats in three, India’s chances of advancing to the second round of FIBA’s Asian qualifiers for the 2019 basketball World Cup look dim.
Friday’s loss to Jordan at the Sree Kanteerava indoor stadium left the side rooted to the bottom of Group C, hopes of progress quickly dwindling. India has little time to fret, though, with Lebanon to face at the same venue on Monday.
Despite what the scoreline might suggest, India came closer to Jordan. The 88-102 defeat was due in large part to a sloppy second quarter, when the home side conceded easy turnovers and was undone by the opponent's fast break attacks. India fought back resolutely in the third quarter, narrowing the deficit to five points, but with Yadwinder Singh – arguably the team's best defensive player – fouled out, Jordan coasted home.
The result will have frustrated the players, who must surely have wondered what might have been accomplished with Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh on court. The two, left out of the squad for this set of matches, instead watched from the stands. It is a disappointing situation.
Lebanon has lost only once on this campaign: to Jordan (and that by four points). The team is fresh off a comfortable 87-63 victory over Syria in what was in theory an ‘away’ fixture but was played in the Lebanese city of Zouk Mikael.
The 6’11” centre Ater Majok – who was born in Sudan and spent eight years in an Egyptian refugee camp before moving to Australia and later Lebanon – was dominant, as was the shooting guard Amir Saoud. India's head coach Rajinder Singh made special mention of the rival point guard Wael Arakji, who at 6.3 assists per game tops the Asian charts.
“He drives, he shoots, he does everything. He's one man who can make a difference on his own. We have a plan for him,” Singh said.
India's already-depleted squad will now be without Akilan Pari, who is getting engaged. Joginder Singh will fill in for him at point guard. Tamil Nadu's Aravind Annadurai, who was in fine form at the recent Asian Games test event in Jakarta, was India's leading scorer on Friday. He will be relied upon again.
“When we played them in Lebanon in November, we started poorly,” noted the forward. “But we are confident now. We can beat them.”