March 5, 2011

RIBA League brings back club basketball to Delhi

With a thunderous in-game dunk, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi brought the rim literally crashing down. It had happened for the second time that day. The on-court action had to take a pause.

Amazingly, even a broken rim is worth the highlight of witnessing a show-stopping dunk. And there has been no shortage of show-stopping highlights at the RIBA League in Delhi this year.

Until about two years ago, there was one prestigious, All-India, basketball club tournament in Delhi, a tournament hosted by the Prithvi Nath Club (PNC). Unfortunately, ever since the PNC court was broken down, the country’s capital has been devoid of a top-level club tournament.

But thanks to the Reebok IGMA Basketball Association (RIBA) League, club basketball is back in Delhi this year: Organised by the IGMA Sports Management company and in affiliation with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the five-day league-cum-knockout tournament, featuring some of the top basketball players in India, was launched at the DDA Sports Complex in Vasant Kung earlier this week. Eight of the top Men’s club teams in India are taking part in this new competition, which is set to conclude with the Final on March 6th.

“We had only been involved with organising corporate cricket tournaments earlier,” said Rajeev Mahajan, the young Director of IGMA, “But we wanted to expand into other sports. I got the help of some basketball players in Delhi to help set up this tournament.”

Mahajan added: “I had never really followed basketball before, but have been enjoying the intensity of the games here. It has been going well and we want to take this tournament to an even bigger level next year.”

The IGMA was given all the right kind of support in helping set this tournament up: former Indian Women’s basketball captain Divya Singh, her younger sister Akanksha, who is a player in the Delhi team, and many more Delhi players came to the aid of IGMA. The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) lent its hand to in organising the event. Sponsorship came via Reebok and ONGC.

“We really wanted to see an established All-India basketball tournament in Delhi,” says Divya, “This year is a trial run – we are hoping to incorporate Women’s teams from next year’s competition.”

The participating teams feature some of the biggest names in Indian basketball. For the first year, Chennai Customs, Air Force, Signals, PNC, Western Railway, Army, RCF, and hosts DDA Sports Club signed up to take part. A pleasant surprise of the tournament so far has been that the participating teams have been extremely competitive against each other – there have barely been any blowouts and most games have been decided in the last minutes, giving the fans some exciting hoops action on the court.

On the first day of the games, a Slam Dunk contest was organised, which was won by Western Railway and Indian National team forward Yadwinder Singh. The dunks have been falling regularly in games and in practice too. The rims get fixed and the action continues!

Just like IGMA have taken a step away from cricket to embrace basketball, so have some of India’s best-known cricketers. Pace bowler Ishant Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan (better known for his stint with the Delhi Daredevils) have been making regular visits to the sidelines of the RIBA League to soak in the hoop action. Sharma, who watched basketball for the first time, has been especially impressed.

And if IGMA continue their promotion in the game, there will be more in the city who will start enjoying it – Mahajan revealed his plans to start a basketball academy in the city. With the right kind of leadership and coaching, we could see a lot more youngsters embracing the game, and one day, hopefully soaring skywards for thunderous dunks of their own!

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