From Australian Gabba’s Blow, Neeraj’s Golden Jet and Kohli-Ganguly Row: The 2021 Indian Sports Review
Sport has always been a hopeful escape for many; but over the past two years, their very existence has been called into question by the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. As 2020 learns to reconcile and ultimately adjust to the ‘new normal’, this year has seen athletic action unfold alongside the otherwise harsh realities surrounding human life. Yes – there were a few hiccups – but sports administrators and athletes braved the challenges with the utmost professionalism to put on a show for fans around the world.
Rightly, India has had its fair share of good and bad in the world of sport. 2021 saw the return of international cricket action in India; the nation celebrated its first ever Olympic gold in track and field and the national hockey team ended 41 years of waiting for a podium at the Games. However, there have been deaths that have had a devastating effect on the sports fraternity, retirements that have left fans heartbroken, and tournaments that have been suspended or canceled as the virus took hold.
As the sport in India has delivered a roller coaster of emotions, let’s take a look at some of its main strengths:
The glorious gold of Neeraj Chopra On August 7, the javelin thrower ended India’s wait for a first Olympic medal in track and field. With a throw of 87.58m, Neeraj sealed a podium in Tokyo – which was also India’s first Olympic gold medal since Abhinav Bindra (shooting) made history in Beijing 2008. Neeraj, who had previously won gold at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, had also broken his own national record months before Olympic gold, throwing 88.07m in the 3rd Indian Grand Prix at Patiala.
Gabbatoir Breakers Rishabh Pant’s push for a single is an image that will long be remembered by Indian fans. On January 19, India handed Australia its first loss to Gabba since 1989 and won the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the second time in a row Down Under. After India suffered a humiliating defeat at Adelaide Test, where the team were eliminated out of 36, Ajinkya Rahane’s men made a fairytale comeback to defeat the hosts 2-1 in the series of four. matches.
‘Chak De’ – From reel to real It might not have been a podium for the women’s team, but Rani Rampal’s side put in a valiant performance at the Tokyo Olympics to finish fourth. India’s incredible 2-1 win over Australia in the quarter-finals remained the highlight of the women’s campaign at the Games. The men’s hockey team, meanwhile, took home the bronze medal after beating Germany 5-4 in a hotly contested game, ending a 41-year wait for a podium.
Resurgence of women’s cricket The Indian women’s team have returned to international action for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and have played two Tests this year – both away, against England and Australia. An inspired performance in both matches resulted in a draw, with India being the most dominant team in their first pink ball test against the Australians. Indian cricketers also shone in the inaugural edition of “The Hundred” and the Big Bash League, with T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur and opener Smriti Mandhana finishing among the latter’s top 10 runners.
Records broken at the Olympic and Paralympic Games India recorded its highest medal total in both cases; the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. While the country won seven medals (1 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze) at the Olympics, the Paralympic contingent returned with an incredible 19 (5 gold, 8 silver and 6 bronze). Two para-athletes; Avani Lekhara and Singhraj Adhana (both shooting) won two medals at the Games.
History of Kidambi Srikanth scripts In December, India’s top male shuttle player Kidambi Srikanth became the first male badminton player to win a silver medal at the BWF World Championships, held in Huelva, Spain. After beating Lakshya Sen in a 100% Indian semi-final, Srikanth lost to Singaporean Loh Yean Kew 15-20 20-22.
Glory in chess The Indian women’s team, consisting of Harika, Vaishali, Tania Sachdev, Mary Ann Gomes and Bhakti Kulkarni, won a silver medal at the World Championships. India lost 0-2 to Russia in the tag team championship final in October.
T20 World Cup disappointment India failed to advance to the T20 World Cup semi-finals in the UAE as they were eliminated in the Super 12 stage of the tournament. India suffered a devastating 10-wicket loss to Pakistan in their opener before falling to New Zealand by 8 wickets. Virat Kohli, who had previously announced his decision to step down as leader in the shorter format, has been replaced by Rohit Sharma – which brings us to the next point.
Fiasco of the harbor master’s office On December 8, BCCI announced that Rohit Sharma would replace Virat Kohli as ODI captain, confirming that the opener is the full-time Indian skipper. The next day, board chairman Sourav Ganguly revealed that he had urged Kohli not to quit his post as captain in the T20I in October, but he “refused”. About a week later, Kohli – still the test captain – insisted that no such request had been made. The explosive revelation of the Indian skipper of the red balloon has given rise to speculation about an alleged rift between Kohli and the chairman of the BCCI.
Shooting fights Indian shooters failed miserably when it mattered most and, on a stage where they were set to succeed – the Olympics, making 2021 one of their worst years in recent memory. India has not won a single medal in the sport and only two shooters on a 15-member team; Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker; could qualify for the medal rounds in two separate events.
The legends that have left us On June 18, one of India’s greatest athletes, Milkha Singh, died at the age of 91 from complications from Covid. Affectionately known as the âFlying Sikhâ, he remains to this day the only athlete to win gold in the 400m at the Asian and Commonwealth Games. A Padma Shri recipient, Milkha Singh is best known for her fourth place finish in the 400m final at the 1960 Olympics.
This year we also lost 1983 World Cup winner Yashpal Sharma, who died on July 13 from a heart attack. Famous athletics coach OM Nambiar, former badminton star Nandu Natekar, Asian Games gold medalist boxer Dingko Singh and famous football journalist Novy Kapadia also died this year.
Pensions that hurt Shortly after a historic Olympic triumph, Rupinder Pal Singh – widely regarded as one of hockey’s finest drag flickers – announced a shocking retirement from the international game. Hours later, Birendra Lakra, who was also part of the bronze medalist squad, confirmed her retirement from the national team. Indian spinner veteran Harbhajan Singh also ended a distinguished 23-year cricket career on December 24.
Impact of COVID on IPL The 2021 edition of the season made a comeback in India, but unfortunately coincided with the peak of a second wave of Covid-19 in the country. The bio-secure bubble was finally broken with several players from the IPL franchises testing positive for the dreaded virus, forcing the BCCI to suspend the tournament in early May. The remainder of the season finally ended in September-October in the United Arab Emirates.
Manisha Kalyan The 20-year-old Indian footballer brought joy to the country in the early hours when she scored the tying goal against Brazil in the Manaus International Women’s Football Tournament. India eventually lost the game 6-1, but the tournament played an important role in providing Indian footballers with much needed exposure.
Ajaz Patel The New Zealand left-arm spinner became the only third pitcher in trial cricket history to win 10 wickets in one set. He achieved the feat in the Second Test against India in Mumbai – which is also Ajaz’s birthplace.
U20 World Athletics Championships India won three championship medals with Amit (10,000m walk) and Shaili Singh (long jump) winning silver, while the mixed 4x400m relay team won a bronze medal.