Narender Grewal’s signature style of shooting a basketball defines him. His Haryanvi good looks has girls swooning in every playing arena he enters. Being an Air Force officer only adds to his allure as an eligible bachelor. The 26-year-old though, prefers to let his on court performance do the talking.
“To tell you the truth, I’m very shy around women. Maybe it has to do with my small town upbringing.”
Narender belongs to Bamla village, 10 kms from Bhiwani district in rural Haryana. Coincidentally, his India teammate Joginder Saharan is also from the same village.
At a shade over 6ft, Narender is undersized for the shooting guard/small forward position he excels in. “All credit goes to Indian Air Force Coach Jora Singh, who spent hours under the hot sun fine-tuning my skills.”
Narender joined IAF in 2006 at the young age of sixteen after completing tenth standard. Ironically, his application was rejected the first time around by the very same Jora Singh who now lists him among his star pupils. “Coach Jora and I now laugh about this rejection!”
At IAF, Narender grew from strength to strength. “I started off on the bench, then to the starting five. Later I was selected to the combined services team (that includes Indian Army, Navy and Air Force).”
Despite these steady improvements, playing for India never crossed his mind. “In 2010, a friend asked me ‘tu ab India ke liye kyun nahi try karta?’ (Why don’t you try for India?). I realized I need to aim higher.”
Narender has been a regular on the Indian squad for the last three years and international commentators are constantly amazed by his scoring abilities. “I’m always asked where I get my unique shooting action from. I even tried changing it a few times, but it disrupted my flow. As long as I am accurately releasing the ball from a good height with enough backspin, I will stick with what works for me.”
The Indian team is headed for the FIBA Asia Cup in a few days, and Narender exudes self-belief. “Earlier we used to get physically intimidated. Now with tall centres like Amrit Pal, Amjyot and Riken, it gives guards like me confidence to press ahead, knowing that our basket will be protected.”
India’s ‘one handed shooter’ continues to aim high.