NEW DELHI (India) – The recent FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers bubble in Bahrain wasn’t entirely a delightful experience for India.
They headed into the bubble with high hopes, rolling off a dominating win over Iraq in the first window . Unfortunately, they were unable to keep that momentum going and suffered two straight defeats to Lebanon and Bahrain. Now as the Bahrain bubble creeps up closer and closer, there will be a lot of work for head coach Veselin Matic to do to keep India’s qualification hopes alive.
“Experience is the most important thing. Even two minutes on the court, that is experience.”
Despite the undesired results from the Bahrain bubble, Matic sees the bright spots and has plenty of hope leading up the deciding window in February.
“I cannot say that in losing we cannot be happy,” he said in the post-game press conference after losing to Bahrain. “We saw some [bright spots] from this team.”
While India featured familiar veterans like Amjyot Singh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, they were also able to put youngsters like Princepal Singh (19 years old), Seijin Mathew (20 years old), and Sekhon Sahaij Pratap Singh (19 years old).
“I’m a little bit happy with a couple of our young player and we are in the process of having a younger team. That is a good point for us. We still have a chance because in the third window, we play against Iraq and then we will see what can happen.”
The results of the games in the Bahrain bubble clinched direct qualification to FIBA Asia Cup 2021 for both Lebanon and Bahrain as the top two teams of Group D. This leaves the third-place spot up for grabs between Iraq and India, which will be decided in the February 2021 window. The two teams will face each other on the opening gameday of the window while India faces Lebanon and Iraq faces Bahrain in their last game of the bubbles.
India currently have the upper hand with a 1-3 record with their lone win coming over Iraq who are 0-4.
“We still have a chance and that is the most important [thing],” Matic emphasized.
“We will play in the third window against Iraq,” he repeated. “And I hope all of our players will come back. It is what it is. We are good team. We showed that in the first half [against Bahrain]. We demolished [them in the] first half.”
“Basketball is a game of a round ball, everything can change.”
The change that coach Matic is looking forward to the most might be the change (or improvement of his promising young players such as 19-year-old Sekohn who impressed with 10 points against Lebanon.
India are hoping that despite losing both games, the fact that their youngsters got to log precious minutes of playing time will boost their development towards their potential.
“…we are changing, and in the future these players will take a very important role in a team. Experience is the most important thing. Even two minutes on the court, that is experience.”