Sachin’s retirement, Vishy’s loss, IOA mess in eventful 2013
Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar’s teary-eyed farewell to the game left a nation overwhelmed, while chess wizard Viswanathan Anand
New Delhi: Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar’s teary-eyed farewell to the game left a nation overwhelmed, while chess wizard Viswanathan Anand broke many a heart by surrendering the world title on home turf even as the brazen chicanery of administrators embarrassed the country in more ways than one in a roller-coaster year for Indian sports.
For lovers of sports, year 2013 was nothing short of an emotional roller-coaster with a liberal dose of frustration thrown in courtesy India’s continued suspension from the Olympic fold.
Adding to the embarrassment was the IPL spot-fixing scandal which led to the arrest of cricketers, including former Test pacer S Sreesanth.
The shameful episode’s already disastrous impact on the game was worsened by the way it was handled by its administrators, who tried to brush things under the carpet with an internal inquiry before the Supreme Court of India intervened.
In fact, Indian sports had very few success stories to talk of this year. One among them was rising shuttler P V Sindhu.
The 18-year-old from Hyderabad took the spotlight off Saina Nehwal by becoming the first woman shuttler to clinch a medal at the World Championships — a bronze. In contrast, Saina battled poor form and injury issues through the year to end up without a title.
Not to forget the junior women’s hockey team, which also clinched a bronze in the World Cup. Led by Sushila Chanu, the girls won their first-ever World Cup medal by beating England in the third-place playoff via penalty shoot-out.
In wrestling, youngsters Amit Kumar, Bajrang and Sandeep Yadav scripted India’s best ever show in the World Championship in the absence of Olympic stars in a year, during which the ancient sport successfully fought off its Olympic exclusion.
Twenty-year-old Amit, the youngest Indian wrestler to compete at London Olympics, fetched a silver in the 55kg division.
On the other hand, 60kg freestyle grappler Bajrang, who got the opportunity to represent India at world championships in place of his mentor Yogeshwar Dutt, did the country proud by securing a bronze medal.
A 25-year-old Sandeep then surprised many when he claimed bronze in the 66kg category of the traditional format of wrestling, the Greco Roman style.
The ground for this stellar performance by the Indian men was set up during the Senior Asian Championship where the hosts claimed the coveted freestyle team title ahead of heavyweights Iran and South Korea.
Off the field, one of the biggest achievements for Indian sports was bagging the hosting rights of the 2017 Under 17 football World Cup after months of speculation and one rejection by the world governing body FIFA.
It was a rare instance of administrators getting it right given the mess that they mostly found themselves in through the year.
Elsewhere, the Indian archers were also quite on the mark as the women’s trio stunned reigning Olympic champion Korean team by a four-point margin in the World Cup Stage 4 final in Wroclaw, Poland in a historic feat.
It was the Indian women team’s second World Cup gold medal this year after a similar achievement at Stage 3 in Medellin, Colombia where they had beaten China in the gold medal clash.
The unassuming cueists also gave the country few moments of pride with Aditya Mehta clinching a gold medal in the World Games in Cali, Columbia and finishing runner-up in the USD 3,00,000 Indian Open in October.
But in boxing, the continuing administrative logjam worsened into a full-fledged factional tug-of-war while Indian boxing’s poster boy, Vijender Singh, found himself at the center of a devastating drug scandal in what was a thoroughly tumultuous year for the country’s pugilists.
Suspended internationally last year, the Indian Boxing Federation remained a pariah this year too, preventing the country’s boxers from competing under the national flag.
To top it all, Vijender, the man who attained nationwide stardom after bringing home India’s maiden Olympic and World Championship medals, was implicated in a drug scandal, tarnishing his reputation even though no evidence was found against him after the initial brouhaha.