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A drab beginning

By M.C. Raman

Photo: Vino John

Prathana Uthappa (right) of West Bengal tries to stop Western Railway's Lovita Figueiredo in the 20th Federation Cup basketball championship at Vashi in Navi Mumbai on Tuesday.

Vashi (Navi Mumbai) April 22 . The ambience here for the opening ceremony was quiet pleasant with the school children and other spectators filling the galleries.

However, the two matches (women's) that followed were of low standard on the opening day of the 20th Federation Cup basketball tournament at the Fr. Agnel Technical Institute complex on Tuesday.

Delhi, the National champion, thrashed Madhya Pradesh, which put up a good show in the last National championship at Hyderabad entering the semifinals, at 77-45 in Group `A' and Western Railway, the inter-Railway champion, scored a comfortable 47-26 victory over Bengal in Group `B'.

Both these matches brought certain disturbing factor into focus. The standard in women's basketball is not a sustained one and fluctuates badly. Secondly, it is strange to see a club team being pitted against a State team.

Why does the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) allow such disparity among participating teams?

The tournament should either be exclusively for clubs or States.

This anomaly is not confined to women's competition. Even in the men's event, teams like the Hyderabad district and the Indian Army are taking part. Does that mean there are no club teams in Andhra Pradesh and the Services?

Not long ago Western Command, Indian Navy and ASC used to take part in such competitions.

What has happened to these teams? It is the duty of the BFI to bring order into the system.

Back to the court. Today the Delhi team was a far better side. With Sheeba Maggan, one of the best shooters in the country, leading the assault, Delhi got off to a great start.

It took a 27-9 lead, but MP managed to cut it down to 30-45 at half time with Meenakshi Rao and Nidhi Chandra unleashing some three pointers to bring the team back into contention.

However, Delhi tightened up its defence further and stretched the lead to over 30 points with Prabhjoth and Divya finding the cage frequently. It was a complete rout for MP.

The Western Railway_Bengal tie was a bit close in the beginning. In fact, Bengal managed to reduce the lead to 16-17.

But Railway girls Arnica, Sheeja and Menaka Antony helped their team to increase the lead again to 26-18 at half time.

The match, however, was marred by many missed baskets.

The Bengal girls were pretty bad in taking shots. Western Railway, however, managed to convert close shots. The real problem for the Railways girls was in collecting the passes. They spilled too many of them under the rival basket.

But fortunately for the Railway, the Bengal girls were off the mark most of the time.

Despite her height Prithi Vanitha missed some, but Marykutty and Kalyani Rudra were on target most of the time. Western Railway however, was not challenged seriously at any point of time.

Punjab Police made a rousing start in men's Group B by outplaying Hyderabad 75-35. In terms of quality game there was nothing in the tie and it was worse than the women's matches.

The towering Parminder Singh (sr) gave it a good start by scoring 17 points and at half time the Police side was ahead 52-19 and the match was practically over.

It became like a practice session for the Punjab players, particularly the bench players.

In the third quarter, the former Cup champion took a massive 66-32 lead by going on a basketing spree without any defence to stop it.

Without much outside shooting the Hyderabad side caved in completely as the Policemen controlled the defensive rebounds well. Neither S. Prasad nor Nihal

Yadav could even reach the double figures for the Andhra side.

The results: Women: group A: Delhi 77 (Sheeba Maggan 32, Prabhjot Kaur 16, Divya Singh 10) bt MP 45 (Meenakshi Rao 10).

Group B: Western Railway 47 (Arnika Gujjar 13) bt Bengal 26.

Men: Group B: Punjab Police 75 (Parminder Singh (sr) 17, Harminder Singh 14) bt Hyderabad 35.

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