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Cricket and kabaddi are the only two team sports in India that have managed to sustain international dominance despite widespread public and homeland support. The national sport, hockey, was at its peak until the early 1980s, before declining in recent decades. Other team sports, such as football and basketball, which are competitively played in practically every country (give or take), have suffered in India. Therefore you probably wouldn’t try betting on basketball when it came to the Indian team.
It’s been nearly 20 years since the new millennium began and India has undergone significant transformation in the two decades since then. They’ve also seen some tremendous accomplishments on the basketball court. In the 2000s, players such as S Robinson and Geethu Anna Rahul made headlines. At the same time, the present decade has seen the growth of internationally renowned names such as Amjyot Singh, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amritpal Singh, Jeena Scaria, Shireen Limaye, Satnam Singh, and others. However, India’s basketball teams have struggled to win at the pan-Asian continental level outside of the South Asian region in the past.
India has a vast potential to gain world domination in sports, with a population of over 1.2 billion people, most of whom are young. It’s no different in basketball. But, unfortunately, even though India has made significant progress in various sports, basketball continues to be underappreciated in the country. Despite prolonged periods of defeat, the Indian basketball has had some memorable single-game victories since the turn of the century, bolstered by outstanding individual performances (S Robinson/Prashanti Singh versus Korea) or a team effort (Indian men vs China).
So, without further ado, I give you some of the most significant victories in Indian basketball history.
India 91-83 Philippines – 2016
At the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 in Tehran, Iran, India showed enough poise to stave off a late rally by the Philippines in the fourth quarter to win 91-83. The Philippines got off to a good start, outscoring India 25-16 in the opening quarter. Things, on the other hand, were about to shift. India finally found their stride in the second quarter, outscoring Gilas Pilipinas 31-21 to grab the lead at halftime. However, in the second half, the Philippines were unable to recover completely.
In this game, the disparity in field goal shooting was too significant. India had a respectable 46.3 field goal percentage, while the Philippines were ineffective. The Filipinos shot 33.7 percent from the field as a team, with players like Mike Tolomia and Kevin Ferrer standing out for their combined 23 misses. In this match, Amjyot Singh was a beast. The 2.03m forward, who can play on the perimeter or in the paint, finished with 24 points, 18 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block. He played the entire forty minutes, demonstrating his status as one of the continent’s top individual players.
India 70-64 China – 2016
The Indian men’s basketball team upset China in their second-round group E match to keep their hopes alive for a quarterfinal berth in the FIBA Asia Challenge. The Indians defeated the group leaders 70-64, handing them their first loss. This was India’s second victory in as many games. India had already defeated China in the FIBA Asia Cup two years prior, with Amritpal Singh being the hero of that success. He led the team to a historic victory with an outstanding all-around performance. After leading 17-14 after the first quarter, China built a lead that peaked at 9 points in the middle of the second.
India, on the other hand, made a complete 180-degree turn from there. In the second quarter, with China leading 27-18, India tightened up their defense. They also went on the offensive, according to a FIBA announcement. Amritpal and Amjyot combined for a 13-2 run to conclude the first half on 31-29. This gave India a tight 2-point lead at halftime. After that, the Chinese were unable to overtake India’s lead. The Indian defence was flawless, forcing the Chinese to make mistakes. India took advantage of 22 turnovers to score 22 points. Amritpal, a 25-year-old professional basketball player in Japan, scored 23 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, blocked three shots, and had three steals in a spectacular performance.
India 65-58 China – 2014
India made basketball history at the Wuhan SC, defeating China 65-58 in the Group A game of the 5th FIBA Asia Cup. Giving the Prelim Round a new twist. It was India’s first-ever win over the mighty and more fancied rivals. India entered the game as underdogs, with China the favourite, especially following their spectacular victory over Iran. China scored early in the game, but India dominated the rest of the first half with their impressive all-around offence. As a result, India headed into the locker room ahead of their formidable adversaries for the first time in history, having led by as much as 15 points at one point in the second quarter.
When the hosts returned reinvigorated and had presumably regained their calm, the lead appeared to be in jeopardy. Still, the Indian squad appeared to have found a solution to every issue China offered. And when they put forward their questions, China gave them little in the way of a response or a response. With 13 points apiece, Pratham Singh and Amjyot Singh tied for first place for India. At the same time, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, India’s bulwark, scored 10 points.