Some of the country’s top cagers will embrace basketball’s shortest and fastest format, the International Olympic Committee approved 3×3 format, which will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, during a two-day tournament which will be held at a mall in Gurgaon next month. Boxing has gone to the audience with bouts hosted at malls in Noida and South Delhi and basketball’s crunched version — played on a half court with matches lasting 10 minutes — will try and woo weekend shopaholics with professional dunkers to be the added attraction to the main event.
The swanky Ambience Mall is where some of India’s stars, including Amjyot Singh and Inderbir Gill, will dabble in a format targeted to get the Millennials hooked. Titled the Road to Mexico — a precursor to the 3BL league which will take-off next year in India — the September 16-17 tournament will see eight international teams, including the Malaysian national team and and four Indian sides, in action. The winner will get an entry into the FIBA World Tour competition, which retains a cool quotient with street-side courts and courts set-up near shopping arcades.
For the mall-goers, the format may be novel but it has had its share of hotbeds in India – the YMCAs hosting and their teams leading the charge – and with the ‘Olympic sport’ tag now firmly attached, 3×3 courts and tournaments are expected to proliferate. Indian basketball’s current stars have already had a tryst with Tokyo-bound version of the sport with Amjyot having played at the highest level while representing World Tour runners-up Hamamatsu – a Japan-based club.
Rohit Bakshi, the Japan-based businessman, who is promoting the to -be-launched 3×3 league in India, confirmed that Amjyot will participate in the Road to Mexico tournament. Unlike the standard 5×5, this format requires just a half court and the matches stretch to just 10 minutes – down from the four-quarter 48-minute standard fare.
“In a standard game you need to go to a stadium and spend your time exclusively on the sport. But here, non-sports lovers will to stop and watch. This creates a whole new audience which is different from the club-supporting sports followers,” Bakshi said.
The 3×3 league will not run foul with the authorities as it has the blessing of the international basketball federation (FIBA). Bakshi co-owns Hamamatsu, the Japanese 3×3 Premier League champions, and the club’s global success with Indians in the mix prompted FIBA to rope him in an effort to tap one of the markets oozing with potential.
“We found a committed partner in India. We trust Rohit Bakshi and his commitment to the format, that favours people with shorter height and that is also something that the FIBA has kept in mind,” FIBA development manager Robert Reiblinger said. Indians Bikramjit Gilla, Inderbir Gill along with Amjyot won hearts back in Japan when they represented Hamamatsu and a similar sentiment in India, if the format takes off as expected, will revolutionize the sport.
“We have more than 150 countries who are actively participating in the World Tour and taking part in the international events. This number is expected to improve now that the sport is in the Olympics,” Reiblinger said.