Indians start favourites

With the winner of the three-day qualifying tournament -- featuring India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal -- going on to take part in the final rounds in Yemen from September 22 to October 1, the Indian contingent will have a lot on the line.

On the face of it, the task appears a tough one given the magnitude of the event and the consistent poor performance of the cagers in the meet, but this time around they’ll have the experience in Arjun Singh, Shadab Khan and Bobby Singh and a well balanced side to bank on.  India’s best performance at the Asian championships was in the second edition of the event in 1972 and since then nothing of particular interest has been achieved by them. However, this time around there is a hope.

The trio –– Arjun, Shahdab and Bobby -- which has taken part in a couple of senior men’s camps already, has blended into a force to reckon with.

“I have not seen the other teams play, so I really cannot give my opinion on our chances in the tournament,” said Ram Kumar, who was the best shooting guard to have ever represented India.  We have worked really hard during the camps held in Ludhiana and this team is for real. We have a very good balance of power forwards, shooting guards, centres and point guards. I can say that we’ll do well. How well....? Only time can tell you.”

The Indians are the clear favourites in the qualifiers –– on paper at least -- but it would be almost foolish to discount the ability of other teams, especially the Lankans.

Though they have not done too well in this tournament in the past, the young and energetic Lankan squad will be India’s biggest threat through the six-match tournament. The Lankans, relying on their short but incredibly agile players, will look to take it past the lanky Indian crew lacking a bit when it comes to speed.

The Indians will take on the unheralded Nepal side in their opening encounter at 4.00 pm before they run into Lankan lions, who take on Bangladesh in their first match at 5.30 pm.

The team: Rakesh Kumar Yadav, Shahdab Singh, Bobby Singh, Dishant Singh, Arjun Singh, Rajan Sharma, Berdinent Carmel Joseph, Jaskaran Singh, Anant Singh, Ajay  Pratap Singh, Amjyot Singh. Coach: Ram Kumar. Assistant coach: V Senthil Selvan.

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