India has taken on quicker than most to basketball's newest international format, the 3x3 version of the game. Perhaps its because, while many other countries have saved their top talents for the game's full (5x5) game, India has often sent the best available players to all versions of the game. Without a domestic basketball league, our top players are often ready and eager to play in as many competitions as possible. And it was in this spirit that India's women's senior team famously took home the gold in FIBA's first-ever Asian 3x3 basketball championship, held in Doha, Qatar, in 2013.
The 3x3 FIBA Asia Cup 2017 is set to be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, from October 27-29. 15 Men's and 12 Women's teams will be taking part in the three-day quick-fire championship.
In the tournament's previous iteration in Doha, the home squad Qatar took the Men's gold with a win in the final against Saudi Arabia. The Women's title was won by India against this year's hosts Mongolia in the final. Playing in a tougher fray, India's men were knocked out in the Quarter-Final stage in 2013.
This year, team's from Oceania will also be taking part in the Asian competition system. Based on recent 3x3 points accumulation rankings, India's outlook is not looking good: we are ranked bottom of all teams in both the Men's and Women's rankings. Japan, New Zealand, and Kazakhstan have been the most favoured Men's squads in the lead up to this tournament; the Women's teams to watch will be Kazakhstan, China, and Turkmenistan.
India's Women are drawn in Group D of the tournament with Kyrgyzstan and New Zealand. India's Men's team will have to first get out of the Qualifying Draw's second group against Chinese Taipei and Lebanon, before being pooled into one of the four Men's groups.
FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup Pools
- Pool A: Japan, Bahrain, Mongolia.
- Pool B: New Zealand, Qatar, QD1 Winner.
- Pool C: Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, QD2 Winner.
- Pool D: China, Kyrgyzstan, QD Best 2nd.
- Qualifying Draw 1: Turkmenistan, Australia, Malaysia.
- Pool D: Chinese Taipei, Lebanon, India.
- Pool A: Kazakhstan, Chinese Taipei, Australia.
- Pool B: China, Sri Lanka, Mongolia.
- Pool C: Turkmenistan, Malaysia, Qatar.
- Pool D: Kyrgyzstan, New Zealand, India.
India's rosters for FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup
- Men: Ravi Bhardwaj, Anil Kumar Gowda, Gurvinder Singh Gill, Jeevanantham Pandi.
- Women: Shireen Limaye, Jeena Scaria, Raspreet Sidhu, Grima Merlin Varghese.
complete a perfect qualifying campaign at the FIBA Asia Women's Cup in Bengaluru earlier this year. This team has a good combination of current stardom (Scaria, Limaye), experience (Sidhu), and youth (Varghese) and could upset some of the higher-ranked teams in their group. The men's team doesn't feature any of India's most-popular players who are all vying for their trades in leagues abroad, but has a good second string of talent that has emerged in the country over the past few years.
The odds are, unfortunately, stacked against India in both the sections. Our women will find it difficult to make it out of the group to the final rounds, and the men's team might struggle even finishing top or second in their qualifying draw. But 3x3 is an unpredictable game, and hopefully, some of the momentum of the past can help India beat the odds and bring home some silverware.