Bengaluru, 25 August 2015: The final 12 member senior Indian women’s basketball squad under the helm of Head Coach Francisco Garcia is all set to participate in the 26th FIBA Asia Women’s Championship 2015 that will be held in Wuhan, China from 29th August to 5th September 2015. The 16 member contingent flies of Bengaluru to China tomorrow night.
Coach Garcia will be assisted by longstanding Railway women’s coach and Dhyan Chand awardee Ms Aparna Ghosh. Air Asia will be sponsoring the Indian team’s participation at the event. Basketball Federation of India President Shri K Govindaraj distributed the team kits and thanked Mr Mittu Chandilya, AIR Asia MD and CEO, who personally graced the occasion, for his support to India Basketball. Addressing the players he said, “We all have put in a lot of effort in the training camp. Now it is up to you to bring laurels to the country. I wish all the players, coaches and manager all the best.”
“We want to promote sports the right way. Basketball in India is at the time when it needs help and is full of opportunity, especially now that there is an Indian in the NBA.” said Mr Chandilya. “The sponsorship is not just for the women’s team but for all teams.”
There are a mix of veterans and promising youngsters in the side. Leading the team is seven time Asian Championship player Anitha Paul Durai, who successfully regained match fitness after missing out most of last year due to motherhood. Paul Durai had first joined the senior national team way back in 2001 at the age of 15. “I have captained the side in 2005 and then in the 2012 Asian Beach Games where we won gold.” said Paul Durai. “This time everyone is junior than me but the positive is that everyone will listen to me. Our goal is to maintain 5th position by beating Thailand.”
Other familiar names include Kerala forwards Jeena PS, Poojamol KS, Smruthi Radhakrishnan (who plays for Railways) and Stephy Nixon. Young Maharashtra forward Shireen Limaye marks her comeback from injury and will be expected, along with Paul Durai, to provide much needed playmaking abilities to the side. Youngsters Srividhya V (Tamil Nadu), Sruthi Menon (Maharashtra) and Barkha Sonkar (Uttar Pradesh/IMG Academy Florida) are the three players omitted from the 15 member squad that was announced a couple of weeks earlier.
“Since some of the senior players such as Prashanti Singh, Geethu Anna Jose and Raspreet Sidhu are missing there is definitely more pressure on me.” said Limaye. “Last time around I was the sixth player. Now I will be playing from the start, so it will be harder but I enjoy the additional responsibility.”
“We have high expectations from Poojamol, Shireen Limaye and Jeena Scaria who have to take bigger steps forward.” Coach Garcia said looking forward to the Championship. Coach Garcia has been taking an innovative training approach by playing practice matches against local boys club sides based out of Bengaluru.
Among the talented new faces are 19-year-old point guard Kavita Akula from Chhattisgarh (who has successfully completed the four year scholarship programme at IMG Academy) and 17-year-old local Karnataka player Bhandavya HM. The two youngsters have already represented India at the junior age group levels, and will be eager to compete against senior international opponents.
“From my own personal experiences I have been telling them to maintain the fighting spirit and unity of the team, and support the newcomers in the side,” said Ms Ghosh.
INDIAN SQUAD FOR THE 26TH FIBA ASIA WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP 2015
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*PG – Point Guard / Feeder, G – Guard, F – Forward, G/F – Wing, PF – Power Forward, C – Centre, PF/C – Pivot
- Team Manager: Mr. Rajendar Manthani
- Team Physio: Mr. Radha Krishna Reddy
- Coach: Mr. Francisco Garcia
- Assistant Coach: Ms. Aparna Ghosh
- Referee: Ms. Snehal Bendke
- Referee: Mr. Rajnarayan Patro
About the FIBA Asia Women’s Championship 2015 & India’s Participation
This will be the 26th edition of the Asian Women’s Basketball Championship. 12 teams are expected participate in this championship and are divided into two Levels. Level 1 features the top six teams, while level 2 features the remaining six. League matches are conducted within each level and the two bottom placed teams from Level 1 play ‘qualifying matches’ against the two top placed teams from Level 2. The winning teams from these ‘qualifying matches’ qualify to Level 1 for the next edition of this event while the losing two teams are relegated to Level 2.
Simultaneously, the top four Level 1 teams go through to the semi-finals, followed by the finals. A bronze medal match is also played between the losing semi-finalists to determine the third and fourth placed teams. The winning team qualifies for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While the second and third placed teams go through to the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Prior to the upcoming iteration, 25 editions of this biennial championship have been held so far, dating back to 1965. South Korea won the inaugural edition and leads the gold medal tally overall (12 Golds), followed by China (11 Golds) and Japan (2 Golds). India first participated at this event in 1970, and has competed 16 times in total. The Indian women’s team best finish came at the last edition of this Championship in 2013, when we finished 5th. Prior to that, India’s best finish had been 6th place at the 1992, 2009 and 2011 iterations.