India look to gain elite status

GEARING UP Indian basketball players during a training session at the Koramangala Indoor Stadium on Saturday. DH PHOTO/ Srikanta Sharma R

With the sole aim of making it to the elite Division A, India will begin their campaign at the FIBA under-18 Women's Asian Championship at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium here on Sunday.

India, placed in Division B, are pitted against Singapore, Guam and Iran in Group A. Hong Kong, Syria, Kazakhstan and Samoa comprise Group B.

The hosts will play Iran first on Sunday.

Under coach Zoran Visic, the Indian women have made great strides. He first led the senior women's team to the upper tier and then guided the under-16 side to promotion in 2017. 

The Serbian, though, would have a tough time in replicating the success as the team will be without two key players, Sanjana Ramesh and Vaishnavi Yadav, who are out with injuries. To make matters worse, the captain of the side Pushpa Senthil Kumar is struggling to get fit on time from an ankle injury. 

Despite the setbacks, the coach is confident and eager to emulate the success he's had with their senior and junior counterparts. 

"We have worked hard in the last two months and the girls will give their best, but international competitions are tricky and I hope we can do the same like last year. I believe we can qualify for A pool," said Visic. 

He feels the squad is talented enough to fill the gaps left by the star players. "Even now, we have Ann Mary (Zachariah). She is a big talent and it is a big experience. There are big talents in the team," he claimed.

Sitting next to Visic was Pushpa, who was overwhelmed after being named the captain of the national side for the first time. She was optimistic about India's chances. 

"I am confident that we will put a good show as we have good players. All the players also need to put a good performance in the competition to do well. I am very happy that I am the captain of the team, but I am also quite nervous about it," she said.

China favourites

In Division A, reigning champions China are the clear favourites, but after the introduction of Oceania teams into the Asian events, Australia may pose a serious threat to their title charge.

In the under-16 championship last year, the Aussies had little trouble in ousting China but faced solid resistance from Japan, who lost by a solitary point (60-61) in the final.

Australia will take on Indonesia in their opening game on Sunday.

The Teams: Division A: Group A: Australia, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia; Group B: China, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia.

Division B: Group A: India, Singapore, Guam, Iran; Group B: Hong Kong, Syria, Kazakhstan, Samoa.

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India look to gain elite status

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