Basketball and India

Basketball at 1980 Olympics: India's road to qualification, roster, results, top performers and more

Since Basketball was introduced as a medal sport at the Olympics in 1936, India has made only the lone appearance in 1980 in Moscow.

So, how did a nation that came close to a medal in their Continental competition - FIBA Asia Cup - just once or twice since 1965, its first participating year, make it all the way to the 12-team Olympics?

MORE: India's track record at FIBA Asia Cup

Here's a look at how it all went down from the team's qualification, the roster, how it fared in Moscow, and who were the top performers.

How did India qualify for the 1980 Moscow Olympics?


Under normal circumstances, of the 12 teams to participate, three slots were reserved for the host nation (Soviet Union/ USSR), the gold-medal winner of the previous Olympics (1976 - USA) and the winner of the previous FIBA World Championship (1978 - Yugoslavia).

Three additional spots are awarded to the winners of the most recent Continental Champions in Africa (Senegal), Asia (China) and Oceania (Australia).

For the remaining six spots, three were awarded to the top three teams from the 1980 Tournament of Americas (Puerto Rico, Canada, Argentina) and another three to the top teams from a Qualifying Tournament in Europe (Italy, Spain, Czechoslovakia).

The Boycott

The 1980 Olympics didn't go down as planned. Multiple countries participated in the USA-led boycott of the games, protesting the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union.

In the men's basketball category, the team set to sit out the Olympics were Team USA, Canada, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and China.

With the Chinese participating in the boycott, the honour of being the lone spot from Asia fell to India. In the most recent FIBA Asia Cup, held in 1979 in Japan, India finished fifth but all of the four nations above it - China, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines were part of the protest.

Who was on India's roster for the 1980 Moscow Olympics?

Paramjit Singh (captain), Parvez Irani, Ajmer Singh, Tarlok Singh Sandhu, Paramdip Singh, Shyam Radhey, Baldev Singh, Dilip Gurumurthy, Amarnath Nagarajan, Jorawar Singh, Hanuman Rathore, and Harbhajan Singh.

How did India fare in the 1980 Moscow Olympics?

India was slotted alongside the hosts the Soviet Union, Brazil and Czechoslovakia in Group A. Losing their three games by an average margin of 65.6 points, India finished winless after the group stage.

However, there were more games to be played in the Classification round. While two of the four Classifications games were blowouts, against Poland and Sweden, India competed harder but in vain against Senegal and Australia.

Here's a look at the scores from each of India's games:

Opponent Result (Score) Stage
Soviet Union L (121-65) Group Stage
Czechoslovakia L (133-65) Group Stage
Brazil L (137-64) Group Stage
Poland L (113-67) Classification Round
Senegal L (81-59) Classification Round
Sweden L (119-63) Classification Round
Australia L (93-75) Classification Round

In the final standings, India finished in 12th and the final spot.

Who were India's top performers at the 1980 Moscow Olympics?

With a team-high points average of 21.3, Ajmer Singh was India's star from the Olympics. He scored in double digits in every one of the seven games, four of which were above 20 including his tournament-high of 35 points which was the second-most scored in that edition of the Olympics.

In the team's final game against Australia, he was involved in a shoot-out with Ian Davies. In the end, his 25 points came-up short against Davies' 30 as India lost the game after leading 41-37 at halftime.

"In the last game against Australia, we played our best. We were leading at halftime, but we lost due to lack of big-match experience. I was proud that our game was appreciated by the coaches and officials of other teams," Singh said.

The only other Indian to break the 30-point barrier was Shyam Radhey, who was the team's second-highest scorer with 15.3 points per game. Hanuman Rathore was the only player from the team to dish out double-digit assists, recording 10 against Czechoslovakia. On the boards, Ajmer Singh is tied with Baldev Singh for most in a single game with eight, both recording that tally against Senegal.

For their remarkable performance, the duo of Ajmer Singh and Radhey were honoured with the Arjuna Award - an honour bestowed upon a civilian for outstanding achievement in the field of sports - in 1991.

Images courtesy - Basketball Federation of India

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