Bengaluru, 3rd July 2015: Playing with poise and purpose, the senior Indian men’s basketball team (also known as the ‘Young Cagers’) steamrolled past eastern neighbours Nepal and Bangaldesh on the opening day of the 4th SABA Championship 2015. The 4th South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Championship 2015 is being played from 3rd to 5th July at the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium in India’s IT city of Bengaluru.
The Indian team is without its key starters Amritpal Singh, Amjyot Singh (both playing in Japan), and ONGC/Uttarakhand veterans Yadwinder Singh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi. But in their absence, other first time forwards Aravind Annadurai (from Tamil Nadu), Aravind (from Karnataka), and youngster Gurvinder Singh Gill (ex- junior India captain from Punjab) more than stepped up to fill the void.
Dominating in the paint, the much taller Indian frontline posed insurmountable challenges for the Nepal & Bangladesh sides. Nepal, in particular, has struggled to prepare for this Championship, with their main Dasarath Indoor Stadium in Kathmandu having been damaged in last month’s devastating earthquake.
In both their games, India led from start to finish, with a widening lead each quarter. Hearteningly Indian Head Coach Prasad Rama Linga continued with his predecessor Scott Flemming’s strategy of aggressive man to man defence, patient ball movement, and multiple easy transition scoring opportunities.
Earlier in the morning, in the inaugural match of the Championship, Bangladesh beat a fast charging Maldives side 76-65. After opening up a sizeable 39-20 lead at halftime, the ‘Lions’ slacked off in the second half to allow Maldives to get back into the game. Mohamad Zilaal was the lone warrior for the island nation, top scoring with 26 points. But he was more than matched by Bangladesh’s captain Mithun Kumar Biswas and Mithun Sarkan’s double doubles.
The final game of the morning saw Sri Lanka, arguably the second strongest team in this competition after India, romp past the tiny South Asian country of Bhutan. The second half had Sri Lankan players in all smiles as they made some impossibly long three pointers, much to the delight of the entire bench. However, an avoidable late flagrant foul on Sri Lankan top scorer Praneeth Udumalagala that sent him tumbling to the ground holding his wrist in agony, will no doubt have his Head Coach Panduka Ranasinghe worried.
In the last match of the evening, Nepal survived the initial back and forth against Bhutan to win their first game of the SABA Championship 72-58.
Results from 3rd July 2015
- India (A Arvind 19, Pratham Singh 15, Prasanna Venkatesh 14) Bangladesh (Mithun Sarkan 12, Md. 122-39 [29-4, 30-8, 36-8, 27-19]
- Nepal (Ashim Shreshta 18 pts & 13 rbs, Bikram Joshi 12) bt Bhutan (Chumi Wangchuk 17, Karma Singye 10) 72-58 [17-15, 9-13, 25-8, 21-22]
- Bangladesh (Mithun Sarkan 24 pts & 10 rbs, Mithun Kumar Biswas 24 pts, 12 assists & 9 rbs) bt Maldives (Mohamed Zilaal 26 pts) 76-65 [22-9, 17-11, 15-15, 22-30]
- India (Narender Grewal 17, A Aravind 13 pts & 10 rbs, Prasanna Venkatesh 13) bt Nepal (Yukta Ram Bhakta Mathema 10) 90-37 [29-16, 21-10, 23-10, 17-7]
- Sri Lanka (Praneeth Udumalagala 28, Thimothi Thineshkanth 17) bt Bhutan (Chimi Wangchuk 12, Yarab Singye 10) 100-57 [31-14, 18-13, 31-9, 20-21]