Praveen Kumar is the cynosure

The IOB team which won the all-India tournament in Chennai recently.-K. PICHUMANI

Struggling to find rhythm initially, IOB came back strongly to defeat ONGC in the final. And the man behind IOB's resurgence was Praveen Kumar. Over to K. Keerthivasan.

Praveen Kumar is the second choice ball handler for the Indian Overseas Bank, the first being S. Aravindh. Both are equally proficient and are a huge asset to the team. While Aravindh can shoot and keep the opponents guessing with his wonderful distribution of passes, he can't make a drive-in or beat the opposition with speed and power. On the other hand, Praveen, being taller, can do both with effortless ease.

Struggling to find rhythm, IOB — its shooting was below par and defence shaky — was trailing ONGC 23-26 at half-time in the final of the third annual all-India basketball tournament for the Jeppiaar Trophy at the J. J. Indoor Stadium in Chennai recently. The decision to send in Praveen for the third quarter was certainly a masterstroke.

The 22-year-old changed the complexion of the match in a jiffy and was instrumental in IOB overcoming ONGC (55-48) in a low-scoring match. Praveen must have scored less than 10 points in the final but made a lasting impact.

Within 10 minutes of his entry, Praveen made numerous assists, fed his team-mates with some eye-catching passes and was brilliant with his drive-in. This tilted the scales in IOB's favour.

“This is our first victory (in an all-India tournament) in more than a year. It's a young side with seven players below 22 years of age. It feels great to win a title at home,” said Aezaz Ahmed, coach and sports officer of IOB.

Southern Railway bagged the women's title with a convincing 75-47 win over South East Central Railway in the final. Southern Railway was bolstered by the presence of its stars Geethu Anna Jose and Anitha Pauldurai.

The two joined the team immediately after being part of the Indian side which won the (three-a-side) crown in the South Asian Beach Games in Sri Lanka.

THE SCORES

Men's final: IOB 55 (Vineeth Revi Mathew 14, Hareesh Koroth 10) beat ONGC 48 (Murali Krishna 10, Anoop 10). Player of the tournament: Rikin S Pethani (Sathyabama).

Women's final: Southern Railway 89 (Anitha 31, Kokila 20, Geethu Anna Jose 13) beat SECR 40 (Anju Lakra 13).

Third place play-off: Bhilai Steel Plant 60 (Saranjeet Kaur 20, Poonam Chaturvedi 16) beat Central Railway 49 (Gresha 16, Beena 14).

Player of the tournament: S. Kokila (Southern Railway).