Nearly ten days ago, the All India Inter-University Basketball Tournament concluded in my hometown of Varanasi, or V-Town, which is my semi-affectionate moniker for the city. The tournament, which was hosted by the city's old and much-revered Banaras Hindu University (BHU) featured four teams from each of the four zones in the country. BHU fell in the East Zone, which also featured another V-Town team, the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth (MGKV).
The tournament ended controversially, with BHU beating the MGKV in the final (held on February 1) at their homecourt. Rumours were already afloat that the tournament's organizers had predetermined the results so that the two hometown teams face off against each other in the final. Now, players of Delhi University (North Zone) that attended this tournament are claiming that they were threatened at gunpoint to forfeit their semi-final match.
Pardon my French, but this is truly f*cked up (from Times of India):
Delhi University's basketball team has alleged that it was forced to forfeit its inter-university semi-final match at gunpoint in Banaras because the organisers were keen on two local teams making it to the final.
"The BHU team couldn't even win a single round and here it has won an all-India event! It's wrong when players are threatened and harmed, and sports takes a backseat to politics," Ajay Kumar, Delhi team's manager said.
The Rajasthan University team too forfeited its match. "We had to leave the quarterfinal against BHU midway because they were assaulting and threatening my players on court. They even put a pistol to the head of one of the boys. Our vice-chancellor has written a formal complaint," said Bharat, coach of the Jaipur-based team.
Understandably shaken, the Delhi players conveyed their fears to the BHU authorities and also to All India Universities under-secretary Gurdeep Singh. But no action followed.
[The organizing committee's secretary Vidyasager] went on to insinuate that he had been forewarned by Singh that the Delhi team would "cook up" such charges. "The Delhi boys never looked like they were serious about playing. Gurdeep Singh had told me that these boys would go to the media and say things. The boys were completely out of hand.
Now, of course there is no proof of the gunpoint threats yet, but ask anyone who was at the tournament's final and it was obvious that BHU had been predetermined to win this tournament. The tournament referees were being blamed for favouring the home side. I was present in some of the group round games, and while I couldn't make it to the final, some of my contacts including Varanasi's former basketball coaches, event organizers, and MGKV players painted a pretty dismal picture.
To everyone's shock (or perhaps not), the entire starting five of the MGKV squad didn't play a single minute in the tournament's final against the BHU. These included 23-year-old Vikram 'Dicky' Parmar, the best player in the tournament, and one of the most talented young players in the country. The excuses for this ranged from "mild injuries" to "protecting the players from future injuries", but that is all really bullcrap - why would you protect your players in the FINAL of the most important basketball tournament of their time in university?
The truth is that it had been agreed from before that the MGKV coach would only play his reserves against BHU in the final, so that BHU could win their hometown tournament, and BHU's longtime revered coach KN Rai would be given a victorious retirement party.
But it got worse - after trailing most of the game, the MGKV reserves actually made an amazing comeback in the fourth quarter, and took a one-point lead against the BHU in the final two minutes. At this point, the MGKV coach had a word with his second squad, and subsequently, MGKV players practically gave up, loosening up their defense and standing around as the BHU scored freely to pick up a 63-56 victory. My brother Harsh, who attended the final, said that it was the most shameful thing he has seen on a basketball court. The crowd watched on in uncomfortable silence and the local newspapers the following day said that MGKV only played to assist a BHU victory. But nothing would change the result.
Despite the fact that teams such as Delhi University, SRM University, or even the MGKV fielded much better squads, the BHU came off as victors. So whether or not the Delhi boys 'cooked-up' the gunpoint story, one way or another, the last team standing was always going to be the BHU.
On a personal note, it's tragic for me to see such a fraud taking place in my hometown, which in recent years has groomed great basketball talents such as Trideep Rai, Divya Singh, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, and now, Vikram Parmar.