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Updated: September 11, 2009 19:06 IST

Enchanting vista of women’s game

S. Thyagarajan
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Indian and Kazakhstan teams at a practice match at Montfort Stadium in Chennai on Thursday. Photo: R.Ragu
The Hindu Indian and Kazakhstan teams at a practice match at Montfort Stadium in Chennai on Thursday. Photo: R.Ragu

The ebb and flow of women’s basketball provides a fascinating study. A world championship sport as early as 1953, it achieved Olympic status only in 1976 at Montreal.

Proliferation since then has been stunning, even granting the fact that that only four countries-United States, Russia, Brazil and Australia -- have etched their names on the world championship scroll until now. Australia is set to defend the title next year.

Seoul was the launching pad for the Asian women’s matrix in 1965. The era of Asian systematization began with Korea demonstrating a vibrant vista that signalled the catalyst for growth.

Korean dominance

Few matched the strategy, skill and style of the Koreans whose dominance was absolute until China entered the scene in 1976 winning the gold on debut at Hong Kong. The rivalry between these two constitutes, in a large measure, the depth and diversity of Asian women’s basketball.

Korea has figured in all the 22 editions since 1965 with an enviable record of 12 championship titles, eight runner-up positions and two bronze medals in 2001 and 2004. China has claimed gold on nine occasions, the last in 2005 in Quinhuangdao. The only other team in the championship title elite is Japan, winner in 1970 at Kuala Lumpur.

Interestingly, only China and Korea figured in the last Olympics at Beijing. While the home team exceeded expectations cornering a semi-final berth, Korea had to be content with the eighth spot.

India’s role

Locked in this fascinating fecundity is the role of India. Tenth in the first year of entry in 1970 at Kuala Lumpur, India has been hovering around 7 and 8 without much distinction. Initially, the participation has been haphazard but then it became somewhat consistent from the Eighties. The best rating was sixth in 1992, and in the last edition at Incheon (Korea), India placed seventh.

Playing in Level II, the team topped the pool winning all five matches totalling 482 points touching three figures in three matches; 111 points twice against Singapore in the opening game and later against Vietnam, and another 105 against Sri Lanka.

Outstanding show

An outstanding performance in this tournament came from Geethu Anna Jose who recorded the highest personal individual tally of 47 points in the qualifying match against Malaysia. India sailed over the opposition beating Singapore (111-32), Hong Kong (88-61), Uzbekistan (67-63) Sri Lanka (105-56), Vietnam (111-62) and Malaysia (86-68).

Against this backdrop, there is optimism that India might go further up the ladder from the present rating of 41. As the new coach, J.P. Singh observed the other day, the players had done their homework diligently and only the outcome will determine the future status in the continent.

A semi-final berth would be an apt reward. But can it be achieved at the JN Indoor Stadium from September 17 to 24?

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