One small tip-off at Mumbai; a great jump for Indian basketball? India's first fully-professional basketball league will start in Mumbai tommorow with the Mastan League, launched by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). 80 of the men and 40 of the top women players in India have been divided into 12 teams (eight for men, four for women) that will play against each other in the league. The players are set to receive a fixed match fee. The games will be held from 8-15th May, and the total prize money is of 14 lakhs.
When I had spoken to BFI secretary-general Harish Sharma a month ago, he had boldly predicted that we could have an all-India pro-league in 2-3 years. The small Mastan league could be a significant step in that direction, helping to provide the players a league-like environment for the week. Some of the country's top male and female players such as Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Sambhaji Kadam, S. Robinson, Geethu Anna Jose, Mihir Pandey, Talwinderjit Singh “TJ” Sahi, Trideep Rai, Riyazuddin, Akanksha Singh, Prashanti Singh, Harjeet Kaur, and others will be taking part.
Harish Sharma, spoke to reporters yesterday (from zeenews.com):
"This is not the NBA, but in our own way we are starting a league for the betterment of basketball. We want the best players from the country playing for balanced teams, but they are not associated with any commercial groups," Sharma said.
"We have invited most international players for the tournament, including the junior national women campers at Indore who would be playing as one team. The junior men would be distributed among various teams. The matches would be watched by the national coaches and government observer," the BFI official said.
There will also be a best player award.
The teams are -
Men: Rangers, Challengers, Kings, Soldiers, Warriors, Lions, Riders, Prince
Women: Power Girls, Super Girls, Wonder Girls, Golden Girls
The players had to report to the venue on the 5th of May, and teams were formed after two days of tryouts. Sharma had said that the plan was to mix the teams up by talent to match a national league system. Around 40 percent of all the players are from Maharashtra to promote basketball in the host state.
DNA India reports that: "The team to watch out for in the women’s draw will be the Golden Girls team that will comprise members of India’s junior national squad. The event is helping them to gain exposure before they head for a championship in Thailand next month."
Ibrahim Lakdawala, an enterprising former national-level player has been behind the planning of this first of its kind professional basketball league in a hope to change the face of the game in the city.
These are definitely exciting times for basketball here. Almost all of the Indian star players I've spoken to have expressed the desire of seeing an IPL/NBA style basketball league in India. What we need next is to have more cities and states participate in such league, and not have a state-based quota for players such as the 40 percent used here.