At the half way mark everything points to a China-Korea summit clash on September 24 in the FIBA-Asia women’s basketball championship. If anything, the debate can be directed towards evaluating who among the two will corner the prize.
Korea is the defending champion with an illuminating record of 12 gold medals. But China, a late entrant in to the fray, enjoys a higher rating (No 7) in the world as also the distinction of being a quarter finalist at the last Olympics in Beijing.
For the aficionados of the sport in and around this city, the displays by Korea (World No 9) and China so far have proved awesome. The synthesis of power, precision and plans by the teams gives the onlooker a rare insight into the nuances of basketball, not often witnessed in this part of the country. In many aspects, it was a revelation.
With three wins in as many matches, both China and Korea have a tally of six points each. They come to grips on Tuesday in the final of the league to determine the top place in the group. China is marginally ahead of Korea in terms of technique and tactics largely on account of having a combination in which quite a few can be portrayed as world class.
Though initially the focus was on Miao Lijie, who figured in the American women’s league, it was the splendid showing of Huang Hongpin that impressed everyone.
This rangy star’s effortless basketing was a spectacle to behold. While Ma Zhengyu and Dan Liu did not lag much behind, a special mention must be made of Banban Yang whose work inside the zone and efforts put in to programme every move from the back line. With six Olympians in the ranks, Coach Feng Wu has a mine of talent to fashion a winning combination.
Korea does not enjoy that luxury but the proficiency and professionalism demonstrated by the seasoned campaigner, Jung Sun-min, continue to keep the confidence of the defending champion on a high note. Yeon ha and Eun Joo have also figured significantly among the points.
Pronounced, however, is the chasm between the top two and the remaining teams.
Japan plays with a lot of determination striving for the bronze that will earn them a place in the next year’s World Championship.
Where will India end up in this configuration? This is an interesting poser.
Rusty and inconsistent, India has lost all the three matches without much of a fight against Korea and China, but by casual play against Chinese Taipei notwithstanding a sterling performance by Geethu Anna Jose. If only the team had consolidated the substantial lead early on, there would have been a different story altogether.
Individually, players are adept, though not to the level of matching the redoubtable centre, Geethu Jose, but the team has failed as a unit so far.
While the coaches assert that there was nothing wrong with the preparations and training, it is clear that the team would have benefited a great deal with greater exposure.
A tour of Malaysia or Philippines could have been planned before the event. As it is, the players have not involved in any major competition after making the grade in Incheon in 2007.
It would be unfair to state that the players lack fighting qualities. Defender Anitha Pauldorai, Harjit Kaur and Pratima Singh have done their bit but not sufficient to keep the squad in a winning mode.
All eyes on Geethu
Geethu Anna Jose continues to be the cynosure of all eyes whenever India takes the court. Her class is palpable, thanks to the exposure in the Australian league and other internationals. Her 34 points against Chinese Taipei underlined her competence in clear terms. But can one swallow make a summer?
In level II, competition has been stiff what with Malaysia cornering more attention after a brilliant fight back against the favourite Lebanon. If Malaysia moves up to the Elite zone, none should be surprised.
Monday’s matches: Malaysia v Sri Lanka (9 a.m.); Uzbekistan v Kazakhstan (11 a.m.); Lebanon v Philippines (1 p.m.); Korea v Japan (3 p.m.); India v Thailand (5 p.m.) and China v Chinese Taipei (7 p.m.).