Tamil Nadu overpowers Karnataka

Hyderabad Jan. 28 . Those who want to know why the Indian team is failing in international competitions should have seen the three men's elite group matches of the 53rd National senior basketball championship. They left a bitter taste in the mouth, as there was neither technical excellence nor fighting spirit from the teams that went down at the Swarnadhara indoor complex here on Tuesday.

Strictly speaking, Punjab is over the hill these days. Yet it is threatening every team with the aged and physically not so fit Parminder Singh (sr) and sharp shooter Gagnesh Kumar. The team walloped Jharkhand, which the other day almost derailed the Railways with its superb shooting and defence, at 96-73 in the men's Group B. Obviously something was wrong with the mental make up of the Jharkhand players, a couple of whom are internationals.

If that was bad what happened to Karnataka was even worse. On Monday Karnataka's game rose to dizzy heights when it lowered the colours of Services, trained by a Cuban coach and coached by S.K. Raja, a prolific scorer in the 80s. It was Karnataka's steady all-round performance that steered the team to victory.

But Tuesday's game sank to abysmal levels against Tamil Nadu, which overpowered it at the start itself with full court press and recorded its third straight win at 106-56 in Group 'A'. It was a bit of a rough match, but there was no reason for Karnataka to fare so badly against its archrival. Of course, Karnataka is lacking in outside shooting. Barring perhaps Murali Mohan, who committed four fouls and was under pressure, and later substitute Ashrafali there were no shooters to shore up the team's morale.

Another team that showed there was no challenge left in it to fight was Uttar Pradesh. It went down badly against the Services at 43-83 in Group `A'. In fact, UP started well putting up a good fight against Tamil Nadu in the opener. On Tuesday, it was mentally not ready to challenge the Army team which is not able to maintain its form steadily in this championship.

Where does the blame lie?

Who should be blamed for such insipid matches in elite groups? The coaches, the officials, the associations or the federation. The problem is that the coaches do not interact with the players and instil confidence in them. The officials and associations just don't bother and the Federation is helpless.

But the Federation should at least ban half court game in the elite group. Why should strong sides in the elite groups play the outdated system and coaches sit and watch their teams being steamrollered.

Tamil Nadu did not have the services of Gopinath and Sridhar, who are likely to join the team on Wednesday. It brought in Sivakumar and Moses along with Robinson, Shabeer Ahmed and Sukhavaneshwar.

But it did a smart thing by straightaway applying full court press and made the rival ball handler Gautham ineffective. Still Murali Mohan basketed superbly even under tremendous pressure. But Karnataka, with its experience, should have hit back with full court press. Instead it looked dazed and at half time was down by 20 points. The match was over here.

Relentless Punjab

Punjab applied similar tactics against Jharkhand, which under pressure, began to struggle for baskets. Des Raj was missing his shots. But at the other end Parminder, Gagnesh Kumar and Harminder were hitting the hoop steadily.

It was a relentless attack from Punjab and at half time Jharkhand trailed by just 11 points. As a young side Jharkhand should have fought, but the team was losing confidence and only Des Raj picked up his shooting. But it was too late and Punjab was already ahead by 20 points. All that Punjab had to do was to maintain basket for basket, which it did.

Services did not have to exert as UP was not pushing it with a fast game. In fact, UP was more relaxed than Services!

In the women's section, it was a free day for the elite teams. The only exception was the Railways, which mauled a hapless Uttar Pradesh 82-21 in Group `A' in the morning.

In the men's section, Andhra from Group `C', Bengal from Group `D', Uttaranchal from Group `E' and Maharashtra from Group `F' qualified for the next stage. In the women's section, Delhi from Group `C', Bengal from Group `D', Assam from Group `E' and Chandigarh from Group `F' qualified as they topped their respective groups.

The results: Men: Gr. `A': Tamil Nadu 106 (Robinson 28, Sukhavaneshwar 21, Shabeer Ahmed 13) bt Karnataka 56 (Murali Mohan 20, Ashrafali 17); Services 83 (Phool Singh 16, Harendra 15, Peter John 13, Dalip 13, Sambaji Kadam 12) bt Uttar Pradesh 43 (Abhinav 21).

Gr. `B': Punjab 96 (Harminder 21, Gagnesh Kumar 24, Parminder (sr) 20, Jaldeep 16) bt Jharkhand 73 (Des Raj 33, Bhuvaneshwaran 11, Wasim Khan 10); Kerala 87 (Abhilash 29, Subash Shenoy 23, Priyush Jacob 14) bt Delhi 71 (Dheeraj 24, Yudhvir Singh 14, Shiv 11).

Gr `C': Andhra 86 (Vinay 27, Pankaj 25, Srinivas 12, Ravi Kumar 12) bt Haryana 44 (Rana 11); Gujarat 60 (Yogendra 14, Bhagirath 17) bt Pondicherry 37 (Danassu 17).

Gr. `D': Orissa 77 (Sashikanth 17, Amaresh 12, Ashok 11) bt Goa 61 (Joe 19, Lambert 13, Ehrlick 13); Bengal 63 (Surjit 13, Amalendu 11) bt HP 42 (Surinder 11).

Gr. `E': Uttaranchal 89 (Nishanth 39, Suresh 15, Narendra 11) bt J & K 79 (Varinder 22, Mod Singh 16, Vipan Kumar 14); Chhattisgarh 68 (Prakash Rao 21, Dhanesh 13, Srinivasan 11) bt Manipur 36 (Viking 13, Boleyn 17).

Women: Gr. `A': - Railways 82 (Ivy Cherian 16, Manisha 14, Arnika 10) bt UP 21.

Gr. `C': Delhi 65 (Rameshwari 17, Divya 14) beat J & K 5.

Gr. `F': Pondicherry 50 (Sarasu 18, Lea 18, Usha 13) bt Rajasthan 41 (Renu 10, Rochana 10).

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