South Asian Basketball Champions Sri Lanka is set to take up the challenge of the Asian rampage for 2021. The pre-qualifiers (Western Region), for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 will be played in Bahrain from the 11th to 15th September.
The Big Story
Sri Lanka National Men`s Basketball Team were crowned ‘South Asian Basketball Champions’, after sweeping the slate clean in the recently concluded SABA Championship in Bangladesh.
Read: Sri Lanka, 2018 South Asian Basketball Champions
Sri Lanka beat hosts Bangladesh 65-34, Nepal 70 – 57, Maldives 82-57, and Bhutan 71-60 respectively.
Read: SABA 2018, Basketball Champions Return to Sri Lanka
The SABA Championship was the first qualifier and stepping stone for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021, with the introduction of the new system by FIBA. The top two teams of the championship Sri Lanka and Bangladesh qualified to play in the 2nd round qualifiers.
The top teams of the pre-qualifiers will then advance to the 2021 ‘FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers’, which will commence immediately after the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Watch: Swishing the Nets | How did Sri Lanka win SABA 2018? Coach Susil Unplugged
The western region pre-qualifiers will feature; hosts Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Palestine.
It was in 2009 that Sri Lanka last played in the FIBA Asia Championship for Men, and was knocked out from the preliminary round. Previously it was way back in 1995 that Sri Lanka was a part of the FIBA Asia Championship. If Sri Lanka finishes in the top four teams, they will be one step closer to the 2021 challenge.
Sri Lankan Outfit, Pros and Cons
Sri Lanka will field the same winning squad from the South Asian Basketball Championship making no changes the set up.
The main plus point for Sri Lanka would be the combination among the players. The SABA Championship saw a fierce side, functioning cohesively in all departments, which operated as a blend of both junior and senior players. When the seniors were rested on the bench, the juniors continued the same momentum which kept up the consistency that was required for Sri Lanka.
Read: Second win for Sri Lanka, Nepal defeated
After the conclusion of the SABA Championship, the players were engaged in international basketball with the ‘SABA 3×3 Quest Stop’ hosted by Sri Lanka. Even though it was a different format, it helped the players to be in action and the momentum to gain valuable international experience.
Watch: FIBA 3×3 SABA Quest Cup | Final Day Action
The major con for Sri Lanka would be the limited time the team had to practice together because of the 3×3 national commitments. Clinton Thevakumar, Timothi Nithushan, Arnold Brent, Kisal Cooray were away to represent the country in the shorter format of the game. The challenge for the players would be to adapt from the shorter format to the longer format in a couple of days.
Read: SL Top FIBA 3×3 Asia Quest Qualifiers in Style
FurtFurthermore, Coach Susil will have to be extremely cautious in how much game time a certain player receives during the tournament. As a clear majority of the players have been exposed to international basketball heavily over the past two months, the probability of injury due to the extensive use of their muscles weighs positively higher.
Coach Susil Udukumbura speaking with ThePapare.com said, “We will take one game at a time. First goal would be placed among the top four teams so that we will be qualified for the next round. For that we will only have to win one game. So, we will focus on that. After that, we will take game by game and move ahead”
Captain Roshan Fernando speaking with ThePapare.com said, “We started practices a month before and we have been practicing both morning and evenings. Since we do not have any changes in the side our combination has improved from where it was and I see that as a big plus point. We will take match by match because the teams are different this time and go winning one at a time”.
Manager Hashendra Fernando speaking with ThePapare.com said, “We will be playing against some top countries in the Asian region and our main goal is to enter the next round of the qualifiers. I must take this opportunity to thank Mr. Aelian Gunawardene, Managing Director of JAT Holdings for sponsoring the Sri Lanka National Basketball Team also I would like to thank all the players, Ministry of Sports and the Sri Lanka Basketball Federation”.
Sri Lanka has the talent clearly, no doubts. Just as we predicted for the SABA Championship, if you load the right bullets at the right time and shoot, Sri Lanka should finish on top once again. The only obstruction in achieving the target would be the lack of team practice and sudden change of formats for the players. It will be interesting to see how Coach Susil would strategize in rotation to get the best out of this well-mannered junior-senior combination. Coach its’ over to you.