December 23, 2011
Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi & Yadwinder Singh barred from playing in Senior Nationals
When Indian sent their top 12 basketball players to the FIBA Asia Championship for Men in China earlier this year - which is the highest level of basketball competition that India usually participate in - the starting line-up of the squad boasted of TJ Sahi, Hareesh Koroth, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Yadwinder Singh, and Jagdeep Singh, with Trideep Rai also getting a chance to start in several games.
These five or six players being the best international talents in the country, it is then expected to see the same stars light it up for their respective state/club teams at India's biggest and most important domestic basketball event - the 62nd Senior National Basketball Championship for Men & Women - which is being held in Chennai right now. And apart from an injury-plagued Koroth, the rest of the players have traveled down south to participate.
But unfortunately, Indian bureaucracy has once again played spoilsport: two of India's best players - Uttarakhand/ONGC's Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Yadwinder Singh have been barred from played in the Nationals. The two stars, who led Indian Railways to the last three successive National titles and have been a mainstay in India's international starting five for around the same period of time, are watching the competition from the sidelines.
After spending several years working with Western Railways and representing Indian Railways in the National tournament, Bhriguvanshi and Yadwinder switched jobs to join Dehradun's ONGC earlier this year. This made them a part of the Uttarakhand team for the Nationals, bolstering a strong-looking squad already stacked with experienced stars such as Trideep Rai, Murali Krishna, Mohit Bhandari, and Anoop M.
But despite completing this move, Railways, who became a slimmer squad after losing their two India internationals, have delayed releasing the NOC (non-objection certificate) for the two players: this means that, starting from their cancelled opening game Delhi, the Uttarakhand Men's team haven't been able to field Bhrighuvanshi and Yadwinder in their side.
Interviewed by the Deccan Chronicle yesterday, Bhrighuvanshi was obviously devastated about missing the chance to shine at Indian basketball's highest stage. "They [Railways] are intentionally delaying [the NOC] to stop me from playing for Uttarakhand at the nationals," he said.
The result of this? Bhrighuvanshi's hometown pal Trideep Rai took the majority of the scoring role for Uttarakhand, with high scores like 34 points versus Chhattisgarh, 39 versus Services, and a massive 44 point game versus Karnataka.
But Uttarakhand, an older team, could really have used the infusion of youth brought by Bhrighuvanshi and Yadwinder in the tournament's Quarter-Final last night against a more athletic Tamil Nadu side. After holding on to a delicate lead for most of the defensive game, TN had the fresher legs as the game reached it's last minutes and took the lead to win 56-54 to enter the Semi-Finals and eliminate Uttarakhand.
Meanwhile, Railways, who may have lost a bit of sheen after losing two of their best players, survived an overtime scare against Delhi last night to enter the Semi-Finals. They may have been weakened by the loss of Bhriguvanshi and Yadwinder, but so far, they are still on course to win a fourth straight title.