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For Andaman & Nicobar's Basketball Players, Participation means Success
Last month’s 3x3 Senior National Basketball Championship marked the debut of Andaman & Nicobar’s men’s team in the game’s shorter format.
Last month’s 3x3 Senior National Basketball Championship in Chennai marked the debut of Andaman & Nicobar’s men’s team in the game’s shorter format.
The side lost all its pool stage games and bowed out of the competition early.
But for the handful of basketball players in India’s easternmost islands, the mere fact that they could even participate in the Nationals was a win in itself.
Andaman & Nicobar has no girls’ team, and outside of the main South Andaman Island, no ball players at all from any of the remaining 36 inhabited islands.
Paying for their own travel; lack of courts & coaches
The squad, comprising captain Raj Kamal Singh, Tirupathi Rao, Akash Kumar Singh and Vaibhav Singh - all based out of capital Port Blair, had to book their own flights to Chennai.
Interestingly, three of the four players hail from Uttar Pradesh, while the fourth - Tirupathi Rao - was born and brought up in Andaman as a third-generation settler, but originally belongs to Andhra Pradesh. Most of them are in Andaman because their parents/grandparents are either government contractors or Naval officers.
Besides the travel costs - which automatically ends up forcing the few other players with lesser means to back out - lack of facilities and meaningful competition hinders their growth.
“We don’t have a government ground to play, we don’t have a coach. It is mostly raining there but you don’t have an indoor basketball court,” Raj Kamal says.
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Nationals: A “good experience”
Despite the one-sided losses in the National Championships, the team terms it as a “good experience.”
A local Chennai-based coach - Robin Santhosh - assisted the side in the Nationals. Santhosh observed that they need to improve their skill levels, besides building on-court chemistry and developing “the mindset that they can achieve more even if they don’t have sufficient facilities or [past accomplishments].”
At the national level, competition-wise, the team says their main problem is a lack of height. But their will to win is second to none. The question though, is how?
Only 20 basketball players in Andaman
The players themselves concede that there are “not more than 10-12, you can say 20” ballers in the Union Territory.
In Andaman, cycling and kayaking are the most popular sports, and as a result, receive Sports Authority of India (SAI) support. This leaves team sports like basketball, football and volleyball to fend for themselves.
Captain Raj Kamal Singh, who’s only 18-years-old, had this final message to share:
“Aapke through yehi message dena chahte ki Andaman government humein support kare…at least humaare ticket ka pay kare…we are playing for our Union territory Sir, not any private tournament…toh Union Territory ko pay karna chahiye Sir.”
The team’s passion for the game has brought them from the island to the mainland. How much further can they go?