Pune’s aspiring basketball players’ dreams crushed by lack of professional courts
Pune is one of the leading cities in India when it comes to promoting basketball. Over the year, several players from Pune have represented India at the international level. Shireen Limaye, Sneha Rajguru, Ishwari Pingle, Kritikka Divadkar, Shruti Menon, Shruti Sherigar, Siddhant Shinde and Pritish Kokate are some of the players who have displayed exceptional skill at the game. Currently, the city has a large number of courts, clubs and schools that promote and produce thousands of basketball players every year.
“We have 55 clubs registered with the Pune district basketball association. Apart from them, we also have around 60-70 schools that actively take part in the inter-school basketball tournaments at their own courts. In the last 10 years, several societies have also started forming their own teams and participating in several tournaments including Ganga Dham and Sky Larks. This is a clear indicator that we have a huge base of skilled basketball players in the city,” said Pune district basketball association vice president, Lalit Nahata.
The game of basketball does not require a proper stadium to begin with. Even a concrete floor used for parking can be transformed into a basketball court with a limited budget. However, the main hassle that the city is facing is the complete lack of indoor wooden basketball courts. Despite a huge number of players and clubs, Pune does not have a single wooden court dedicated to the sport. Though makeshift courts are made at the Shiv Chhatrapati sports complex in Balewadi, experts feel that having a proper basketball court will help the players in achieving better results.
“Balewadi has few wooden court complexes, but they are not meant for playing basketball. For a basketball court, you need a good bounce base. Even the ball used on such courts are different. The weight and feel of the ball is different and our players don’t even get a chance to experience the game on such a court unless they are selected in the Indian team,” said Nahata.
Due to the lack of an indoor stadium, the city also fails to host international matches. The last international tournament that was played in the city was the Asian Indoor Under-16 basketball tournament in 2009 and was played on the makeshift courts of the Balewadi badminton complex.
“Organising a tournament at Balewadi is a costly affair. For the badminton complex, officials charge Rs50,000 for a single day, which is often unaffordable for many. The smaller complexes, including the weightlifting complex, are not good enough,” Nahata added.
An unfinished business
The basketball enthusiasts had high hopes from the Pune Municipal Corporation during 2005, when Dr Nitin Kareer was the commissioner of PMC. He had promised several pieces of land for different sports associations which were reserved under sports facilities. The basketball association was promised a small piece of land in Sahakarnagar to build an indoor wooden court. However, after Kareer got transferred in 2007, the proposal was ignored by the PMC and was never processed. The association is still waiting for the land.
“We don’t have enough influence to buy land in the heart of the city and then develop a wooden court. A proper wooden court costs around 2 crores and even though we will try to manage the funds, we would need to have the land for at least five years. But as per PMC rules, if they develop the stadium, the lease is limited to just 11 months. Therefore, having a proper wooden court seems like a distant dream for us,” said Nahata.
All professional basketball tournaments are held on hardwood courts that provide a smooth, unobstructed surface and a consistent bounce. World’s largest popular league - NBA uses maple flooring. A scientifically built wooden court has five layers including base, resurface layer, two cushion layers and colour coat. Recently, two stadiums in Bengaluru, the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium and the Koramangala Stadium, have been fully refurbished with maple wood flooring for the upcoming Women’s Asian Championship.