On the eve of India’s 68th Independence Day, we learn from the nation’s top basketballers on what it means to play for India. All these players have represented the country either at the junior or senior level. The quotes you find below are the result of numerous telephone calls, face to face conversations and previous profiles that have been published in Tadpoles over many months. Here are the top 10 reasons that act as motivation for our star players to work tirelessly day and night to fulfil their dreams of wearing the India jersey.
“I can still feel the goosebumps when I recall our national anthem playing for the first time before our opening match against Bangladesh,” says India point guard Akilan Pari.
#2 To be a pioneer and role model
Indian women’s superstar Geethu Anna Jose has just been recommended for the prestigious Arjuna Award. Jose is the only Indian citizen to be called for tryouts in the American basketball league (or NBA) and is the first to play professionally in Australia. She has also captained the Indian team and was Asia’s top scorer in 2009. “In the days when I started playing the only goal was to represent India. Now I want to be a role model for other youngsters to make them dream bigger that anything is possible.”
#3 Self Respect
“I never made it to the team in the u-13, u-16 or u-18 level. Everytime I got close to playing for India, I would lose out in the last minute.” says defensive specialist Prasanna Venkatesh before finally making his Senior India debut last month.
“Coming from a smaller city like Varanasi, I never imagined one day I’ll be leading the national team,” says Indian men’s captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi.
“We are the first and only people from our small Bamla village in Haryana to play on the Indian national team. It’s like we have put Bamla on the map,” say long time Sr India and Air Force teammates Joginder Singh Saharan and Narender Grewal.
#6 To be the best
“There were a lot of NRI Punjabis who used to play basketball at Ludhiana University. They used to talk in English, wear fancy clothes and play with a lot of style. Seeing their swagger I wanted to be one of them and even better,” says TJ Sahi, former India point guard.
#7 To prove a point
“The late Punjab Coach Sankaran Subramanium told me I had no chance,” says Anmol Singh who was rejected from the u-16 Punjab state team but fought back to now become a starter on the Indian u-19 team!
“We are a young team and there’s a lot of camaraderie and no infighting. Even when I’m away from home for two to three months at a stretch, being with my teammates feels just like family,” says Pratham Singh, a star on the senior Indian men’s team.
#9 To follow in the footsteps of others
“Our school had produced a couple of international women players like Tanvi Shevade and more recently, Sneha Rajguru. Whenever they dropped by, they were always wearing India jerseys. Looking at them, I wanted one too.”, says Junior India player Sruthi Menon.
“We agreed to play for India without turbans because we put the service of the country before our personal religious beliefs,” senior India player Amjyot Singh has been quoted as saying.