When the Indian womens 3×3 basketball team reached Doha,Qatar,for the inaugural FIBA Asia 3×3 Basketball championship,they were informed that the formidable Chinese
and Thai sides had pulled out of the tournament. All of a
sudden their vague underdog status changed and they became instant favourites. True to their new status,the Indian team won the tournament,playing in a final against the team from Mongolia.
Of course,not everything went in favour of the Indian team.
For starters,three of their four players were considered
shorter than average basketball players,the return of veteran
Manisha Dange might have provided the experience but may
have been at the expense of more youthful players,the young
Pratima Singh was fairly inexperienced at this level,and,as
admitted by Anitha Pauldurai,there was an added pressure as
being favourites to win. Yet they found loopholes and won all
their games convincingly.
Although being tournament favourites did boost the morale and confidence of the team,there was something that
was even more important for the players. What worked really
well for us was the team chemistry, said Pauldurai,citing
that three of the four players,Pauldurai,Manisha Dange,and
Geethu Anna Jose have played together for the Indian Railways team for several years. Each knew exactly how the other played.
The teams average shorter height shaped the way for their
tactics. Pauldurai,Dange,and Singh would fire in three-point
shots,with a high success rate,and the six-foot-two-inch Jose was there to convert the rebounds. Jose was also there to drive in at the opposition. Three pointers and driving are very important in the 3×3 game and our tactics supported that style of play, said Pauldurai.
While team chemistry played a part in the success,the players
also employed a unique tactic to prepare themselves before
each game. All we did was talk casually,joked around
and talked about our families, said Pauldurai a few seconds
after she managed to suppress her laughter. It was very useful since it made us feel at ease and lightened the mood.
Even the added pressure of being tournament favourites was
calmed by this tactic. What also helped in the final was the fact that the Indian players knew how the Mongolian team functioned,having played them in the semi-finals of last years
Asian Beach Games at Haiyang.
Along with the importance of the tournament success,the
occasion also marked the return of Manisha Dange to the international stage. Pauldurai mentioned that the game became much easier with Danges experience. It was great to play with her again.
In terms of the future of the sport,Pauldurai said the 3×3 is a
faster game,but is a good way to capture awareness about
Basketball and perhaps even shed some light and fame onto
the original five-a-side format.
Although the mighty Chinese and Thai teams did not participate in the event,the four Indian players in Doha did make a name for themselves and raised hopes for the future of basketball,in a country dominated by a single sport. While the team dwelled on the experience of Dange and the guile and class of Pauldurai and Jose,the team also made way for the future with the youngest of the illustrious Singh Sisters, the 23-year old Pratima. Overall,India had a well balanced side that rightfully deserved to be champions.