Overcoming the fear of failure is the only way to win
The defeat of Iran - the reigning FIBA Asia Championship winners and also the defending champions in this tournament - at the hands of a very young Chinese team may (and should) be attributed to an insipid outburst on the part of an assistant coach at a very inopportune time. That being said, there's no taking away the credit of the tremendous win from the Chinese youngsters.
However, the defeat of that very Chinese team to an Indian team the following day was a tailor-made certainty for the world headlines.
A quick look at the past performance record of the two teams will put things in perspective.
China have won the gold medal at the FIBA Asia Championships a record 15 times - failing to make the Semi-Finals only in two of their 19 appearances in the continental event. India, on the other hand, have made the Semi-Finals only on two occasions, and never got past that stage.
And in head-to-head record, China had won all seven of their previous meetings in FIBA Asia Championships between the two, by at least 30 points on each occasion.
Given that background, any Indian team beating any Chinese team certainly went beyond the normal routine results of an event.
Looking at the two results from China's view point is probably about the best way to understand the impact of the two games.
On the one hand, in their win over Iran, the Chinese youngsters were proving to their fans - especially those at the Wuhan SC - that they have the wherewithal to hold their own and emulate their predecessors who had won the gold medal at that very venue at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship.
But in the defeat to India, these same youngsters showed their willingness to experiment and stay put in that mode, even with a deficit on the scoreboard staring at them.
"We are not afraid of losing," China's coach Wang Huaiyu told me during a tete-a-tete, looking at all their results in the competition so far.
Well, for a team that won three out of their four games, the fear of losing shouldn't be a factor at all, I thought. But I realized Wang Huaiyu was looking beyond this competition when he answered a media question.
"All targets for this are long-term. Nothing (is) fixed for the next two years," he said answering a question which asked him to analyze the slip-ups during the defeat to India.
India too are looking at long-term gains from the result, despite it being historical.
"True we have never achieved this before, but we hope this is the start of a lot of things to change," said Indian spearhead Vishesh Bhriguvanshi.
"The most important gain for us from this win (against China) is that the team gained in self-belief and confidence. India is not a team to be considered as pushovers. We can put up a fight against any team in any condition."
"I'm more surprised that this was the first win for India against China," India coach Scott Flemming said in an interview to FIBA Asia website. "Because we have a lot of potential and this should have happened much earlier."
Seen in the backdrop of Indian basketball suffering from the lack of a proper league - of any kind - the result looks remarkable in itself, and also the answer to why it didn't happen earlier.
The success of Indian basketball at the Asian level is overdue - or has been for a long time. So is the success of Chinese basketball beyond the Asian level. The world of basketball, more than me, counts on the results at the 5th FIBA Asia Cup to be a harbinger for the two to happen.
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