India will hope for a turnaround in fortunes with the arrival of Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh ahead of two crucial Asian qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup here. Bottom of Group C after two defeats in two, India will face Jordan at the Sree Kanteerava indoor stadium on Friday before a clash with Lebanon at the same venue on Monday.
India began its campaign in November with defeat away to Lebanon, but it was the loss to Syria at home three days later that severely dented the team's hopes of qualification. With only three teams advancing to the second round, there was much riding on that tie. Amjyot, who in November was drafted by the Oklahoma City Blue in the NBA G-League, did not feature in either of those games while the centre Amritpal was forced to miss the Syria fixture for personal reasons. Their absence was sorely felt.
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India has been camped in the city since the start of the month but Amjyot and Amritpal -- fresh off a stint with Sydney Kings in Australia's NBL -- joined the team only earlier this week.
“They've played together a lot; so it should not be a problem,” said Rajinder. “They know who plays where and how and whom to pass to. Of course, a little more time to train would have been nice.”
Amjyot could miss four matches for Oklahoma City Blue but it was not an issue, he felt. “I'm there only because of the Indian team. If India call me I have to come. This is my first tournament for India since I went to the NBA; I'm excited,” the forward said.
India will also need Satnam Singh, point guard Akilan Pari (who has racked up 15 assists from the two games), and power forward Arvind Annadurai, who impressed at the recent Asian Games test event in Jakarta, to be in top form in order to trouble Friday's opponent.
In Jordan, India meets a side that relies much on fast-break attacks. The visitor sits on top of Group C, having crushed Syria before edging Lebanon by four points. The guard Darquavis Lamar Tucker, a Michigan-born naturalized citizen, top-scored against Lebanon with 32 points; he is one to be wary of.
“I've seen their matches on YouTube,” said Rajinder. “Their play from the outside is good. They like fast-break attacks and we've planned a strategy for that.”
There is no denying that Jordan is the overwhelming favourite and that India would have been better served by a longer training camp. But Rajinder is confident. “No team gets on court to lose,” he said. “We are out going out there to win.”