Image credits: FIBA.comFormer Indian player, Jagdeep Singh Bains also named as “Jaggi” by his teammates, hails from Ganganagar in Rajasthan. He started playing basketball in 2002. Initially for a year, he played one school nationals for Rajasthan. Thereafter, he was approached by late Coach S. Subramanian to join the Ludhiana Basketball Academy. Bains agreed, and was soon part of the junior India team, and made his place in the senior team at age 19. He became an integral part of the Indian team, playing over 20 international tournaments, including the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and multiple Asian Basketball Championships. He was an all rounder and helped India win crucial matches.
Several top employers in the country like Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Indian Railways and various other banks wanted to hire him but, he chose to stick to the place which taught him the game and brought him so far. He played for Punjab Police for four years from 2008-2012.
In an interview with him, he speaks to us about the shocking recent rejection he had to face from National Institute of Sports (NIS), the main reason why Punjab Basketball is deteriorating by the day and the lessons he learnt in life.
When was the first time you held a basketball in your hand?
“In 2002. My dad was an athletics coach and I used to run while he used to train others. I had good height (sic) so the coach in Ganganagar asked me to come and play basketball. A year later I played school nationals for Rajasthan after which Coach S. Subramanian asked me to join Ludhiana Basketball Academy.”
You could have made a career in athletics very easily with your father’s guidance, but why basketball?
“In the beginning I wasn’t aware and when I was asked to play basketball by the coach in Ganganagar, I liked it.
The first time I ever played the sport I knew this was it. This is what I wanted to do and nothing else. It fascinated me more than any other sport ever could.”
Who has been your support system throughout your career?
“ My family had many sports persons and they always supported me for everything. Apart from that, coach S. Subramanian had a huge role to play in my career. He taught me everything from scratch, taught me skills that I couldn’t have otherwise learnt. He made us train for almost 5-6 hours every day divided into two sessions of approximately 3 hours each.”
Who has been your favourite Indian player and why?
“Robinson has always been my favourite player because his game was very different from others. Everything about his game was very fascinating. People always wished to learn more from him.”
Who is your favourite international player and why?
“ None as such but Satnam Singh is my favourite international player now that he has created history. It’s a great leap for Indian basketball.”
In your entire basketball career, which are your most memorable moments and why?
“Asian Games 2010. It was my career’s best tournament and I played really well being the third best scorer.”
When it comes to you, there are two major controversies that come into question.
Firstly, your dismissal from Punjab Police in 2012, what do you have to say about that?
“ I devoted everything to Punjab. I played for them, rejected so many better opportunities just because this place made me who I am but in the end they dismissed me from service. It is heart breaking when you do so much for a place and get nothing but rejection in return. It obviously hurts, we tried getting answers but there was nothing more that could be done.”
The other issue that has recently come into the picture is rejection from NIS. Why do you think that happened?
“Out of all the 23-25 people that they have, half of them don’t even know how to dribble properly and they are going to be future coaches of the country. I can only imagine the condition of basketball in the near future. They told me I was unfit but what has it got to do with my fitness. I wanted to be a coach and I think I can do a very good job at that because I feel I have the best skills possible since I learnt from the best. My personal fitness should not be the reason for my rejection. They also asked me to try next time.”
Do you feel let down by the system or do you regret not leaving Punjab Police for better options?
“ ‘Dukh to ho raha hai par ab kya kare.’ (I do feel bad, but what can be done now) I regret making those choices but there is nothing that I can do about it now. I refused ONGC and Railways, it was a big mistake. Everyone who played with me is now settled.”
What are your options now?
“Mainly I want to start playing again but since my father is ill I haven’t been able to practice. I will definitely do that once he gets better. I can’t get a job now since I am over age. Par ek baar khelna zarur hai. Jab tak shareer mein jaan hai tab tak khelenge baaki bhagwan ki marzi.” (It is important that I give playing another shot. As long as I have strength left in me, I would like to continue playing, God willing.)
As a team, the level of Punjab Basketball has been dropping. Why do you think this is happening?
“It was bound to happen. There are no players left anymore because they left for better opportunities. They learnt a big lesson from my experience. They knew something similar could happen to them, so they chose to leave and settle down.”
What are your memories of late Coach S. Subramanian?
“He was everything to me, a coach, a guru. The students who trained under him have the best skills anyone in India could have. He taught us a lot and was a great disciplinarian.”
In an interview with Satnam Singh after his NBA Draft, he mentioned you as his role model. How does that make you feel? How do you use your experience of the game in mentoring other young players from Punjab?
“It’s a very big deal for me that Satnam mentioned my name as his role model. He trained with us at the academy and it’s good to know that someone who reached such great heights still remembers me.
Usually when people achieve something in life, they forget others but Satnam is different and it feels great to know that I helped him in some way.
Other than that, I help my juniors at the academy with whatever they need. I try passing on my knowledge of the game to them.”
What is your future goal?
“My fitness is the first thing on my priority list at the moment, I still have some time left, so I can train and play a few tournaments. Getting a job is tough for me now so I will think about being a coach someday.”
His message for all his fans and youngsters aspiring to be future basketball stars is to keep training hard and try avoiding injuries. Whenever you get a job opportunity, take it and get settled before anything else. He doesn’t want others to make the same mistakes that he made in his career and they should keep working hard.