SHIVANSH GUPTA GUPTA
As an aspiring sports journalist, my dream is to bring the unsung and the forgotten heroes of Indian sports into limelight and celebrate their success together with the country.
The Indian basketball team kick-started their FIBA ASIA CUP 2017 campaign, which is currently in progress in Beirut, Lebanon, in the most undesirable way possible. Their first match ended in a 54-101 loss at the hands of the merciless Iranian team. Iran, who are the favorites to win the tournament, ran riot from the very first quarter, leaving the Indians with absolutely no breathing room to make a competitive comeback into the game. India is part of Group A with Iran, Jordan, and Syria.
The drubbing was quite obviously on the cards when Iran amassed a total of 29 points in the first quarter, while India could only manage 8. In the subsequent quarter, India bettered their previous performance by scoring 14 points and tried to get a move on, but they still fell short by a massive 28- point margin as Iran finished the first half with the score of 50-22.
After that, there was no looking back for Iran as they gained a 40-point advantage by winning the third quarter 29-17. By this point, the game was done and dusted, and it was only a matter of time before Iran officially registered their first win of the tournament. Finally, they sealed an emphatic victory by scoring 22 points in the last quarter and finished the game 101-54. Hamed Haddadi was the star of the show as he scored 20 points.
Two things that India lacked and Iran showcased in abundance were speed and presence of mind. India scored 60% of their points through free throws while approximately 85% of Iran’s scores came through field goals. Indians were slow out of the box and often ended up conceding open baskets without even challenging the Iranians. A lack of agility and presence of mind was evident during India’s offensive plays as Iran scored 15 steals and 34 defensive rebound points.
Block, steal, attack and score were the predictable sequences of play throughout the entire match. During India’s offensive plays, Iran successfully kept pushing the Indian players further apart from the basket and as a result, India resorted to 3-point plays, and unsuccessful attempts creating openings for Haddadi and his teammates to score the extra points.
The shot-division chart below clearly shows the apprehension, more like inability, of Indian players to break in deep through the Iranian defense and their slow sleep allowing the opposition to score easy two-pointers.
Individual stats and performances of the game also indicate Iran’s dominance and India’s poor show. It is astonishing to note that five players from the Iranian side score more than 10 points, with Haddadi, who has played for NBA Teams like Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns, topping the chart with 20 points 8 assists. On the other hand, only Amjyot Singh Gill could break into double figures as he scored a mere 10 points.
Arsalan Kazemi was the overall top-performer for Iran as he bagged 10 points, 10 rebounds, dished out 5 assists and successfully recorded 4 steals. On the other side of the court, Amrit Pal Singh was the overall stand out performer for India with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 block.
Another shocking fact tells us that India was in the lead for only 15 seconds throughout the entire match when they scored the first bucket of the game. Iran immediately bounced back to equalize the score and ever since Iran ran havoc and they maintained their lead for the next 38 minutes and 19 seconds. Iran’s biggest scoring run lasted 18 points while India’s lasted a measly 6 points.
It is appealing to note that Iran showed no signs of complacency despite dominating the entire game and the display of their offensive prowess was extremely riveting. They were not only the better team but also extremely brutal and intimidating as they stamped their authority in style. India just didn’t show up and, calling their performance in the game the result of an off-day, would be an understatement.
Ranked 25th in the world, Iran outclassed the 53rd ranked Indian side. Evidently, if India is to qualify for the second round, they will have to beat 28th ranked Jordan on Friday and 72nd ranked Syria on Sunday. Only top three teams from each group advance to the next round. In the other match of Group A, Jordan was subjected to a fierce fight by the Syrian team as they won by a shallow margin of just 2 points. The finals score read 68-66 in favor of Jordan.
Therefore, it is clear that in the next match, India must chalk out a strategy to stop Mousa Alawadi and Yousef AbuWazaneh, power houses of the Jordan team who scored the majority of their points in their first match. India must bring out their A-Game on Friday, and the players have no choice but to find their speed back as it’s their only way of stopping the likes of Alawadi, Yousef, and Mah’d Abdeen and get through the defensive prowess of Yousef Abu Wazaneh and Mohammad Hussein.
The Indian team have an array of challenges awaiting them and just like the Women’s team. The boys will have to outclass their opposition to turn the odds in their favor.
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