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Star duo dropped, India lose FIBA World Cup Asian qualifier
In a shocking turn of events, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) dropped the country’s two top stars - Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh - from the national team, hours before their crucial FIBA World Cup Asian qualifier against Jordan.
BFI secretary general Chander Mukhi Sharma said both players were excluded because they had not played for India in the past. Amjyot missed India’s qualifiers against Lebanon and Syria in November last year due to his commitments with the Oklahoma City Blue in the NBA G-League while Amritpal - who plays for Sydney Kings in Australia's NBL - had to skip the Syria home tie to attend to his ailing father.
“Because they didn't play for India in the past, the trust between the selectors and them was broken. Our disciplinary committee was looking into it,” Sharma said.
BFI president K Govindraj had, last week, announced that both players were in the 12-member Indian squad for the two qualifiers. However, the FIBA tournament website, which regularly updates the rosters of all participating teams, never included Amjyot and Amritpal’s names in the players list.
“Yes, they were not on the list of 24 we initially sent to FIBA. We could not be sure that they were going to be available. By the time they (Amjyot and Amritpal) confirmed, it was too late to add their names. We wrote to FIBA and were hopeful but they replied to us on Thursday stating that they could not play,” Sharma added.
The absence of the powerhouse duo - who sat in the galleries of the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium cheering their teammates - was sorely felt as India put up a brave fight, but were beaten 88-102 by Jordan, further sinking their World Cup qualification hopes.
India had a spirited start, channelling their offence through skipper Satnam Singh Bhamara (20 points) and forward Aravind Annadurai (28 points), who enthralled the crowd with a handful of two-handed dunks. One of Satnam’s mammoth dunks turned the backboard tower sideways and the game was held up for over 10 minutes as a flurry of volunteers struggled to realign it.
The hosts enjoyed an 18-10 lead midway through the first quarter, but Jordan slowly got into their offensive rhythm. Guards Mahmoud Abdeen (18 points) and US-born naturalized Jordanian Darquavis Tucker (18 points) created space to knock down their jumpers with ease.
Result: India 88 (Aravind Annadurai 28, Satnam Singh 20, Justin Joseph 16) lost to Jordan 102 (Md Shaher Hussein 19, Mahmoud Abdeen 18, Darquavis Tucker 18, Yousef Wazaneh 15, Mousa Alawadi 12).