The Commonwealth Games 2018 is set to begin from April 4 and India have put forth a strong 233-member contingent.
Apart from several individual stars such as PV Sindhu, Mary Kom, and Sushil Kumar, the fans would be hoping India to pick up a medal in team events such as hockey and basketball as well. But the path to the podium finish at Gold Coast will not be an easy task.
India are placed in group B in Men’s Hockey along with Pakistan, Malaysia, Wales, England and will begin their campaign on April 7 against Pakistan. In women’s hockey, India have been placed in Pool A along with Malaysia, Wales, England, and South Africa will begin their campaign on April 5 against Wales.
In men’s basketball, India will face higher-ranked England and Cameroon, while in Women’ basketball, Malaysia and New Zealand share the group with India.
Here is a form guide of India in hockey and basketball:
Men’s Hockey: India men’s team won the silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Four years later, the side will look to convert it into gold.
The year has not started well for India, as they ended up in the second place from bottom in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, winning only two matches against weaker oppositions, Malaysia and Ireland.
Earlier, they also lost against Belgium in Four Nations Invitational Hockey final in January. Due to poor form, India will be without Sardar Singh at CWG and it will be Manpreet Singh who will lead India’s contingent as captain at Gold Coast.
It was under Manpreet’s leadership that India won the Asia Cup in 2017 after a span of 10 years, beating Malaysia 2-1 in an epic thriller. India also won the bronze medal under Singh at the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneshwar in Odisha in the same year.
Led by head coach Sjoerd Marijne, India are eyeing a terrific season ahead, with Asian Games and Hockey World Cup. In an interview, Marijne told reporters in February, “I want to win the Asian Games and the World Cup. Those are my two objectives.
If you win the Asian Games, you become the first team in the world to qualify for the Olympics. So you get almost 2 years to prepare and that would be perfect. That’s what we are aiming for.” A gold medal finish at Gold Coast would set a perfect platform for them to boost their morale.
Currently ranked at the 6th position, India have drawn lower-ranked Pakistan, Malaysia and Wales but tougher roads will start if India manage to get past the group stages.
Australia, who are currently the top-ranked team, and struck gold in 2014 Commonwealth Games, will be the toughest challenge in front of them, on their path to the top podium finish.
Women’s Hockey: Indian women’s hockey team grabbed the spotlight two years ago when they qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics. It was the first time a women team from India had qualified for the event – the first time India women participated in hockey was back in 1980, and it was via invitation.
The side led by Rani Rampal, though failed to make a mark and finished in the last spot. But in spite of losing confidence, India continued to fight hard and went on to lift the 2017 Asia Cup title in November 2017, defeating China 5-4 in penalty shootouts.
In a column on economic times, Rani Rampal credited the win on the win over the Belgium junior men’s team at 2016 junior men’s World Cup by 4-3 in September 2017.
“It was the first time that we were playing a match against men, and to win against a quality team like Belgium meant we had made a significant improvement.”
It had not taken India too long to bounce back from the Olympics disappointment. In November 2016, they had won the Asian Champions Trophy, defeating China 2-3. Led by coach Hardendra Singh, who is regarded as one of the key figures to lead India’s transformation, India qualified for the World Cup after lifting the Asia Cup in November.
The form continued in 2018 as they went on to defeat South Korea 3-2 in a 5-match away series, becoming the World No. 10 side.
With consistent performances over a period of time, and strikers Rani Rampal and goalkeeper Savita in good forms, the side has emerged as one of the favourites to lift the gold in the tournament.
Men’s Basketball: The 62nd ranked India’s basketball last competed in the Commonwealth Games back in 2006 where they could not register a single win. But things have changed a lot in last 12 years.
With the help from major world leagues such as NBA, Indian basketball has taken a massive jump. The sport has been getting plenty of exposure in the country with India participating in several tournaments such as FIBA Asian Cup. In 2015 Asian Championship, India showed their potential to the world as they reached the quarterfinals.
But India’s recent outings left a lot to be desired. The side, in February 2018, lost two FIBA World Cup qualifiers against Jordan and Lebanon at home. It took their tally to 0-4 in the qualifiers. Earlier, in 2017, India finished 0-3 at FIBA Asia Cup, after a disappointing BRICS Games where they lost their all three matches.
In William Jones Cup 2017, India went on to lose all their 9 matches. The side has not won a single international match since defeating Sri Lanka in July 2016 to clinch gold at South Asian Basketball Championship.
The inclusion of star player Satnam Singh Bhamara might help India but the road in CWG has tougher challenges in front of them. India will have to go against higher-ranked England and Cameroon in group stages, which might not be an easy task for them.
Women’s basketball: India Women’s basketball, who are placed at 48th position in the rankings are touted to have a better chance of a podium finish at Commonwealth Games 2018. Under the captaincy of Anitha Paul, the team climbed to the Division A of the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 after thumping Kazakhastan 75-73 in a thriller with veteran Shireen Limaye being the top scorer. The win meant that in the next Asia Cup, India will play in the Division A. With Paul picking up the injury, the hero of India’s historic win Limaye will lead India Women’s contingent at the Commonwealth Games.
India will also feel confident of the fact that the Serbian Zoran Visic will continue as the head coach. Apart from leading India’s senior side, he also helped the U-16 women side to victories at their respective FIBA Asia Cup in 2017 as the coach.
India Women have not played regular tournaments, unlike the men’s division, which puts them in a disadvantageous position. But they have drawn a comparatively easier draw at CWG, and will face Malaysia and New Zealand in the group stage. The only higher-ranked team in their group is Jamaica and if India manage to get past them, they can enter the semifinal at Gold Coast.