Ravichandran ‘Rajinikanth’ Ashwin
There are few thing that can go wrong with this man. The touch he’s in, India’s premier all-rounder can bat, ball and take on the opposition with his razor sharp wit. “Ashwin is the man,” says the crowd. To top his phenomenal year, the Chennai born cricketer took home the ICC Cricketer of the Year (Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy) and the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year. Ashwin also surpassed Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag in terms of most number of Man of the Series awards. While the former two have won it five times, Ashwin sits pretty with 7 wins (and counting).
Like his name (Huge), Virat Kohli too made it large in 2016. He started the year with centuries down under (Australia) and never looked back. With four centuries in one season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Virat stood out for his athleticism on the field. Off it, his cosy time with Bollywood starlet Anushka Sharma made the headlines. Virat also became the first batsman to notch up double hundreds in three consecutive Test series. He also has the most number of double hundreds in Test by an Indian skipper. Under his leadership, the Indian Test team is currently bulldozing opponents at will. An 18 Tests unbeaten run is a testament to that.
If you’re confused as to what the Karnataka batsman is doing here, look no further and just read this. “At the start of the day Karun Nair was just another name with a good domestic record, by the end of it, he is India’s second batsman after Virender Sehwag to score 300 runs in a Test,” read a press report. 300 runs in an innings!!! Nair, unlike Virat, did not live up to the meaning of his name. Karun was not at all ‘kind’ to the English bowlers and send them for a leather hunt enroute to his marathon innings at the Chepauk in Chennai. He was playing his third Test.
The swashbuckling ‘Jaddu’ of cricket ended the year as the number two Test bowler in the ICC rankings and is placed right after his compatriot Ravichandran Ashwin. Jadeja played the perfect foil to Ashwin’s guile as the duo deflated many a lineup and caused panic and terrorised the opposition camp. Jaddu was quick, Jaddu was spot on and like the old saying, “If Ashwin doesn’t get you, Jaddu will.” The southpaw recorded his best Test bowling figure at the Chepauk recently, where he accounted for seven English batsman in an innings and also picked up his maiden 10-wicket haul in a Test match.
Virat and co. climb summit
It was only a matter of time for the Indian Test team to grab the ICC mace. They did so by whitewashing the Kiwis two months ago. A 3-0 victory gave India the required lead and an impressive 4-0 victory in a five-match Test series against England cemented the place for them to end the year as the numero uno side in ICC Test rankings.
The DRS received a major boost as biggie BCCI finally nodded in its favour. Though set up on a trial basis, India (BCCI) implemented the system for a five Test match series against England. With hindsight, one can say that it allowed the game to go on at a fair pace and even though Kohli got too excited and got it wrong a few times, some break throughs were achieved by the use it. Looks like it’s here to stay!!!
India complete Asia Cup treble
Much like the West Indies, India too completed their treble in the Asia Cup, as the U19 team, Women’s Team and the Men’s team all lifted the silverware at different times of the year. the most recent one came in form of the U19 boys as they successfully managed to defend their title, defeating hosts Sri Lanka.
Football India’s gradual rise
India ended the year in 135th spot in the FIFA rankings, a vast improvement from a corresponding period last year. They braved odds and played the perfect team game on several occasion this year, registering crucial wins. I-league side Bengaluru FC also created history by coming the first Indian team to play in the final of the AFC Cup. The side’s eventual 0-1 loss meant no additional feathers to their hat, but, it commenced a new chapter for Indian football in Asia.
Vijender Singh, the ringmaster
Indian Vijender Singh was called names when he gave up amateur boxing and opted for a pro career. But one must say, two years later, the man still stands undefeated. Singh has been tried eight times and has come out a winner. His latest win over Francis Cheka, where he knocked out his opponent is a testament to his work ethic. Earlier this year, he also made the country proud by outsmarting Australian pugilist Kerry Hope to clinch the WBO Asia Pacific title. The match was contested in Delhi, India, as the home crowd witnessed the desi hero live in action for the first time in his pro career.
The Indian Olympic campaign started on a slow note. With most contestant ousted, the medal hopes too waned. But it all changed as Sakshi Malik gave India a bronze and the rest followed.
When opportunity comes knocking, few grab it with both hands. Haryana’s Sakshi Malik did it that way and made it count. Handed a chance in repechage, Sakshi grappled her way to the podium as she took out her Kyrgyzstani opponent Aisuluu Tynybekova 8-5. What made it a even better match was that the Indian grappler was trailing 0-5 at one point.
No, she did not win a medal, she won a million hearts. For years, India did not have a female Olympian gymnast and DIpa made the nation proud when she qualified and as she vaulted her way past the opponents in the finals, Dipa was a sensation. She attempted the Produnova, a difficult set, one even the most seasoned stay away from. When she narrowly missed the medal, a contestant said it’s fitting to change the name Produnova to the Karmakar vault!
If Malik gave us a Bronze, Sindhu was lined up for a Gold, but ended short, albeit with a Silver. Carolina Marin, the Spaniard played a perfect game, but not before losing a set to PV Sindhu in the mega final. Sindhu’s silver is the highest honour an Indian shuttler has achieved so far in the Olympics. She bettered Saina Nehwal’s bronze win at London Olympics in 2012.
India shared some moment of glory in the French open tournament when Leander Paes teamed up with Martina Hingis to beat Sania Mirza and her partner Ivan Dodig to win the mixed doubles event.
Indian pair of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna reached the Mixed doubles semi-final. But lost both their semi-final and the the Bronze medal clash to return empty handed.
Sania continued to bring glory for India in 2016. After reaching the mixed doubles Semi-finals with Rohan Bopanna in the Olympics, Sania continued her strong form in the doubles paradigm and ended the season as the world’s top doubles player after securing the 2016 WTA Year-End World No.1 Doubles Ranking.
After a memorable Olympic campaign by the Indian girls, the Paralympics team recorded their best figures for the nation. India won four medals, two Gold, a Silver and a Bronze medal each.
Mariyappan Thangavelu gave India a Gold in Men’s High Jump, while Devendra Jhajharia matched him in Men’s Javelin throw.
Deepa Malik brought home a Silver in Women’s Shot Put and was hailed by all as the country revelled in her glory.
India had a double delight in the Men’s High Jump Event as two athletes won medals. Following Thangavelu’s Gold, Varun Bhati won a Bronze. (IBNS-TWF)