India look to make an impact

India look to make an impact
With no experience of playing in big events and with limited training opportunities, the young Indian team will have their task cut out when they begin their campaign in Division ‘B’ of the FIBA under-16 women Asia Cup basketball championships here.

The hosts will take on Nepal in their opening Group A game at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium on Sunday. Sri Lanka is the other team in Group A. Group B features Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Maldives.

Iran, placed in Group A of Division B, was expelled from the event on Saturday. “They have not paid their membership fee to FIBA. We sent repeated written remiders to their national federation. Yet they failed to make the payment. We then informed them that they are not eligible to participate in this event,” Hagoop Khajirian, executive director, FIBA said.

India’s goal will be to top the Division B so that they earn promotion to the top division in the next edition. Head coach Zoran Visic, who guided the senior women’s team to the top tier of Asian basketball, was realistic about the side’s chances in competition. He was also not satisfied with the preparation of the team. With the indoor stadium not available for training, the team had to practice outdoors. The relentless rain, which caused havoc in the city a few days back, then played its part in hampering the training sessions.

The work at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium was still in progress on Saturday, with workers giving final touches to the wooden flooring.

“We prepared the best from what the conditions offered. The team has worked hard. This is a young team, first time together. They trained for one month at SAI Gandhinagar in September and for the last three weeks we are in Bengaluru. As you know, there was big damage in our stadium so we couldn’t practice indoors. We trained outdoors. Everyday it was raining… it was wet. Everything was very difficult, specifically for preparation.

“We started training indoors at the start of this week at BMS College. We played a few scrimmages, friendlies. It was more for fun than something serious. There is lot of question marks,” said Visic, who considers Malaysia and Kazakhstan as the other strong contenders.

Meanwhile, Karnataka’s Sanjana Ramesh, named captainof the side, was optimistic of the team’s chances. “Everyone is really excited and we are hoping to put on a good show, “ the 16-year-old said.

All the India games will be at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium which will also host Division ‘A’ matches. Other Division B matches will be at the Koramangala Indoor Stadium.

China favourite
In Division A, newcomers Australia will pose a serious threat to defending champions China in their quest for the title.

The quick-footed Japanese, who wore the crown in 2011 and went down to China in the 2009, 2013 and 2015 finals, can also spring a surprise.

Groupings: Division A: Group A: Australia, Chinese Taipei, South Korea, wNew Zealand. Group B: China, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong.

Division B: Group A: India, Sri Lanka, Nepal. Group B: Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Maldives.

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