For the last one and a half months, the covered hall of the National Sports Council has been occupied by the national women’s basketball team. The girls are seen shooting, dribbling and defending the ball in the hall.
After a long hiatus of three years, the team are preparing themselves for an international tournament. While the other sports like cricket and football saw a number of international competitions after Covid, basketballers remained passive and did not get any chance to play in global tournaments for three years.
The last time the team played an international match was in 2019 at South Asian Games, held in Kathmandu where the team bagged the silver medal after losing against India in the final match.
But, Nepal women’s basketball team are now finally preparing for an international tournament, South Asian Basketball Championship (SABA), that is being held in the Maldives in September.
Nepal won the second position in the first edition of SABA held in 2016. Since then, the event has not taken place and it is time for the Nepali team to shine again in the second edition of SABA.
According to Sadina Shrestha, the captain of the national women’s basketball team, they have a lot of challenges and pressure, yet she is confident and determined to win the gold medal.
She says, “The girls have a different level of energy and excitement. It is definitely tough to win the competition but not impossible.”
Hope to create history
Talking about toughness, Shrestha says, “The very first challenge is that we are unaware of the exact status of our women’s basketball team because we haven’t played with any international squad for a long time.”
The past three years have been very frustrating for the national women’s basketball team because they were barred from playing at any international level for a long time.
The second challenge is India. Last time, India did not participate but this time there is a higher probability of their participation. So, this is another challenge for the team.
India have always been a giant team in the South Asian women’s basketball scene and to compete against them is a great challenge for all other teams in the region. The South Asian giants currently stand in 58th rank in world women’s basketball while Nepal still remain unranked.
Shrestha, the national women’s basketball team’s captain since 2013, has a dream to bring a gold medal from an international tournament during her tenure.
Nepal so far have not won any international gold medal to date. And, this time, Shrestha profoundly wants to change history.
The coach’s concerns
Meanwhile, coach Bikram Shahi has additional concerns.
In the last three years, Nepal women’s basketball team enrolled many young players. Those players have insufficient experience in playing big matches, and it worries him.
But, he says the Nepali team are a blend of experienced and young players, and he wants to test the status of the team.
“So, now, we are mainly focusing on building a strong formation of the team,” says Shahi. “Despite having many young players in the team, they are progressively maintaining coordination with each other.”
Building a strong team
Captain Shrestha also accepts that each day the team’s coordination is improving. The senior players are also helping the young ones to stay motivated and enhance their skills.
Shrestha and Shahi both say that there were some issues in building coordination in the past, but now gradually, things have changed.
In the past, the irregularity in tournaments also affected the fitness of the players. But, the coach says that players’ fitness is improving each day this time.
Another player Anusha Malla also dubs Shrestha and Shahi. She also believes that the lack of experience in big tournaments among the young players is currently a major challenge for the team.
“To combat the challenge, we are preparing ourselves mentally, physically and in every possible way,” she says. “We will give our best.”