Tuesday, Apr 22, 2003
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By M.C. Raman
It is heartening to see major domestic events being completed as per schedule, considering the fact that they had ground to a virtual halt some time ago. Still there are sponsorship problems. But more and more younger people, who love the game, are taking up the task of conducting National-level events.
"We don't have a major sponsor for this tournament. But Reliance is offering moderate support and we are raising money through other sources to the tune of about Rs. 10 lakhs,'' said the BFI Associate Secretary M. Venkatesh, who is in charge here.
The floodlit Fr. Agnel Technical Education complex, where there are two courts, is the venue and the educational institution is also helping the organisers.
There is still a pall of gloom here because of the demise of BFI Chairman Emeritus Vaikuntam, a father figure for most in this part of the country. His death has taken away a great supporter of the game. A bachelor, he devoted his entire life for the promotion of basketball. When he was at the helm of BFI, India was a power in Asian basketball but he was pained by the deterioration in the BFI administration in his later years. This championship can be a fitting tribute to the man who never thought anything beyond basketball.
Mumbai is hosting this Federation Cup after 1985, the second edition. It can be quite an exciting tournament, considering the fact that there are at least three or four strong contenders for the Cup.
IOB has an edge
The defending champion Indian Overseas Bank from Chennai is in no mood to give in so easily. IOB had beaten Punjab, which is the Punjab Police side, to win the National senior men's title in Hyderabad in January. These two teams may have another showdown in the final under the label of clubs. IOB has an edge mainly because in February it beat Punjab Police to win the all-India tournament title in Punjab. Four players were either injured or ill, but the depleted IOB fought gallantly to take the top honours. So the team is confident, according to its coach Ramamurthy.
Punjab Police won its maiden title in Pondicherry in 1995, outplaying Indian Bank in the final. After that it had a fantastic run of success till 2001 at Jamshedpur. It was only at Bhilwara last year that IOB stopped the rest of the teams, including Punjab Police, to take the title for the first time.
The Indian Army squad, last year's runner-up, has been trying hard to get to the top, both in the Cup competition as well as in the National senior championship. But the team is yet to get a breakthrough. It lacks its old aggression and finesse.
However, this time the focus will be on ONGC, a team that has been beefed up considerably by the addition of a few good players. The Uttaranchal team is likely to be the main challenger for IOB in Group A for the top position. ICF, which is depleted because of the absence of its three main players who have gone for the World Railways championship, and TISCO, Jamshedpur, which has lost some players to ONGC, are the weaker squads in this pool.
An exciting group
There will be more excitement in Group B in which Punjab Police, Indian Army and Vijaya Bank will be fighting it out for the top two positions. Hyderabad district is the fourth squad.
In the women's section, only four teams matter. Delhi sprang a big surprise in the last National senior championship at Hyderabad, by toppling Railways in the final. So they may be at it again here. There is no change in the Delhi team but Railways will be represented by its champion side Western Railway.
Last year's winner Southern Railway did not qualify this year. Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, last year's runner-up, are the other teams that may make an impact.
Men: Group A: IOB, TISCO, ONGC, ICF; Group B: Indian Army, Punjab Police, Vijaya Bank (Bangalore), Hyderabad.
Women: Group A: Delhi, MP, Chattisgarh, Punjab; Group B: Western Railway, Kerala, Bengal, AP.
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