It will be basketball with a difference in its dimension, depth and dynamics when the FIBA-ASIA women’s championship takes the centre-stage on Thursday.
Into its 23d stanza since 1965, and first in India following the pull out by Chinese Taipei, the 12-nation two-tier competition at the JN Indoor Stadium can be guaranteed to mirror a new insight into the style, system and sophistication perfected and fine-tuned by world-class combinations like Korea and China.
The significance of the event lies in identifying the top three from Pool A to make the grade for next World Championship at the Czech Republic.
If history is the denominator then Korea’s is a shining one. With a medal in all 22 appearances, and 12 championship titles, including the one at the last edition at Incheon (Korea), this is the outfit that has the ingredients to unfold a breathtaking show.
Eight silver and two bronze medals in the kitty along with 12 gold make Korea’s record enviable.
If the coach, Lim Dal Shik, exudes confidence in Korea’s competence to keep the title it stems from the fact of having eight players who figured for the team in the quarter-finals at the Beijing Olympiad last year.
No one stands out in Lim’s scheme of things than the 34-year tested and tried veteran Jun Sun Min, who helped Korea win the gold on the home turf in 2007.
Sun Min’s all-round ability makes her the vital link for the squad, which has two equally efficient players in the rangy Ha Eun Joo and immaculate shooter, Beon Yeon ha.
The power alignment took a dramatic alteration when China entered the scene in 1976. From then it has been a two horse race. Now, definite pointers emerge to see China edging ahead. Nothing testifies this more than the fourth place at the last Olympics and its seventh spot in world ratings. Interestingly, in the 17 appearances so far, China has scooped gold nine times taking the silver on six occasions and a bronze in 1997.
Indisputably, China will to go all out to regain the Asian supremacy after its hat-trick victory sequence from 2001 to 2005 was halted last time by Korea at Incheon.
China’s star is the 28-year old Miao Lijie, a chart topper at the Beijing Olympics. Miao had donned the Sacramento Monarchs emblem in the US league in 2005, and is reckoned as the best equipped player in the continent. Assistance to Miao should come from the gangling Chen Nan (6’7”) who was chosen to play for Chicago Sky in WNBA.
In a nutshell coach, Fengwu, who played for China in 1994 and 1988 Olympics and two World Championships in 1982 and 1986, has an excellent set to pick back the gold.
In this endeavour Fengwu has the support of two foreign experts, Bill Tomlinson of Australia and Al Biancani, the physical trainer from United States.
India in big league
Where does India come in this power structure? This is an interesting question. There is some consolation that the game is looking up, and India is part of the big league. Coach J.P. Singh is more than realistic when he says that he will work out a match-by-match strategy.
He is more than aware that the team takes on the defending champion in the opening match on Thursday. “We have prepared well for the event,” is his refrain.
Quite naturally, India pins its hopes on Geethu Anna Jose. Her consistently good showing in all international games recently generates optimism that India can take on the challenges with equanimity.
Geethu topped the chart at the last edition, and contributed immensely to India winning al the five matches. She averaged 32.8 points per game.
Geethu will get support from a bunch of enthusiastic and energetic team-mates, Anitha Pauldurai, Akanksha Singh, Anju Lakra, Prashanti Singh, and Kiranjit Kaur.
The experienced Shiba Maggon, a qualified FIBA referee, returns to the squad adding to the balance. How well the team takes the power and precision of the Koreans tomorrow is worth watching.
Japan, which won the title last in 1970, Chinese Taipei, and Thailand make the rest in Group A.
Doordarshan will telecast live all matches.
Group A: Korea, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, India and Thailand.
Group B: Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan.
Group B: Philippines v Malaysia (9 a.m.); Lebanon v Uzbekistan (11 a.m.); Kazakhstan v Sri Lanka (1 p.m.); India v Korea (4 p.m.); Thailand v China (6 p.m.); Japan v Chinese Taipei (8 p.m.).