Saturday, 29 February 2020

2010 Year Of Ecstasy And Agony For Indian Sports

Updated: January 15, 2011 3:03 pm

National idol Sachin Tendulkar along with young non-cricketers, with their scintillating performances made the country proud while National Game Hockey and corrupt officials dented the celebrations in 2010.

                It was a year of ecstasy for sports buffs as Sachin created new milestones by becoming the first batsman to score 200 runs in an ODI and 50 test-centuries. Interestingly, both these records came against South Africa—200 at Gwalior and 50th test ton at centurion. In between he completed 14,000 Test runs in October in the Border-Gavaskar trophy. However, for the first time in this decade, National passion Cricket was given run for its money by other disciplines as five Indians became World Champions—Mary Kom(boxing), Vishwanathan Anand(chess), Ronjan Sodhi, Tejaswani Sawant (shooting) and Sushil Kumar (wrestling).

                On the other side, National game hockey had slumped again as Indian team failed to earn a direct qualification for the 2012 London Olympics while off-the-field there was no end to the federation’s problems. Commonwealth Games organising committee and its officials were mired with several layers of controversies, scams and corruption charges that it robbed the sheen of the actual games. Once hailed as a poster-boy of Indian Premier League (IPL) Lalit Modi, suddenly became a fall guy as charges of corruption and money laundering hit the league.

                Using its massive money power and clout Board of Control for Cricket in India(BCCI) got rid of Lalit Modi, but has not yet been able to sort out the IPL muddle. Saina Nehwal emerged as the second most popular sporting icon after Sachin in the country with her super showings. Indian shooters had uneven year as they stole the thunder in the Commonwealth Games, but flopped in Asiad. Boxers grabbed the spotlight with their impressive showing especially in the Asian and Commonwealth Games, while wrestlers and athletes also did well to grab the eyeballs.

                In cricket, besides Sachin’s heroics, the national team did also exceptionally well. Led by Gautam Gambhir, the new-look Indian team walloped New Zealand 5-0 in the ODI Series. Prior to that MS Dhoni-led side beat the Kiwis in the test series and also white-washed Australia 2-0. Though India failed to put up a good show at the ICC Twenty20 World Championship in West Indies, it ended the 15-year drought at the Asia Cup beating Sri Lanka at their home in the final.

                Despite a big mess and clouds of uncertainty over its future, IPL remained a hot property for the investors as two new franchises—Kochi and Pune—were sold for Rs 3,200 crore against Rs 2,840 crore, the BCCI fetched from the sale of eight franchises in 2008.

                For badminton star, Saina Nehwal it turned out to be a dream year as she capped it off with five international titles. Also good showing by Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa and Parupalli Kashyap underlined India’s emergence as a power to reckon with in the international Badminton circuit. With three back-to-back titles—the Indian Open, Singapore Super Series and Indonesian Open—Saina created history as she became the first Indian woman shuttler to do so, before the Hyderabad-based player won the Gold medal in style at the Commonwealth Games.

                She then went on to win her third Super Series title of the year and fourth in total, when she won the Hong Kong Open and also avenged her disappointing loss in the quarterfinals of the Asiad. At present, she is ranked number 4th in the World. In the men section, as Chetan Anand and Arvind Bhat struggled because of injuries and poor form, P Kashyap won the Bronze in Commonwealth Games. A few consistent performance internationally also helped him to end the year at a creditable 23rd in the world rankings.

                Jwala and Ashwini, combined well to win India’s first ever women’s doubles Gold in the Commonwealth Games badminton competition. Ajay Jayaram also showed promise, winning his maiden international title in Thailand and then followed it by claiming Yonex Czech International held in Brno. Anand Pawar made his return to the scene after recovering from his back injury, by winning the Scottish Open.

Promising youngster HS Prannoy won a Silver medal for the country at the Youth Olympics Games in Singapore. PV Siddhu won all the tournaments, she played at home.

                In boxing, ‘The Magnificent’ MC Mary Kom created a history as she won the unprecedented fifth World Championship in Barbados. The Manipuri police official and mother of two, however managed to win a Bronze along with other pugilist Kavita Goyat, in the Asiad where the Women boxing made its debut. In the men section, Olympic Bronze medal winner Vijender Singh led the charge as Indian boxers boxed to glory and Gold.

                In the South Asian Games (SAG) at Dhaka Chhote Lal Yadav (57kg), Asian champion Suranjoy Singh (51kg) and Amandeep Singh (48kg) bagged a Gold each. And after that it was a gold rush, which continued till the end of the year. Indians boxed their way to six Gold medals in the Commonwealth Championships in March, with Vijender (75kg), SAG gold medallist Amandeep (49kg), Suranjoy (52kg), Asian Silver medallist Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Olympian Dinesh Kumar (81kg) and Paramjeet Samota (+91kg) finishing at the top of

the Podium.

                The Commonwealth Games, on the other hand turned out to be disappointing for Vijender as he ended with a Bronze after a controversial loss in the semi-finals and defending champion Akhil failed to win a medal. Suranjoy, Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Paramjit Samota (+91kg) clinched a Gold each as the host produced their best-ever boxing performance in the Games’ history.

                Vijender however made a stunning comeback just a month later winning a Gold in the Asian Games at Guangzhou. He shocked two-time world champion Abbos Atoev of Uzbekistan with a dislocated thumb. He blanked his rival 7-0. The second-unexpected Gold for India was claimed by 18-year-old Vikas Krishan (60kg). Indians returned with two Gold, three Silver and four Bronze medals—their best ever showing in Asiad.

                They claimed two Golds in the Asiad for the first time after Dingko Singh’s gold in 1998. Earlier Vikas Krishan had won a Gold in the Youth World Championship while another teenager Shiva Thapa bagged a Silver later in the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore, Shiva won Silver while Vikas picked up a Bronze.

                The boxers can not rest on their laurels as in next year they have though competitions—men’s World Championships and Olympic qualifiers—lined up. In Billiards and snooker, former world number one Pankaj Advani had an uneven year. Though he won a Gold at Guangzhou Asiad, he failed to regain his World title in Damascus, Syria. Before the Asiad, winner of seven world titles, 25-year-old Bangalore-based Pankaj failed to defend his IBSF World titles as he lost to Mike Russell in the final of the time format and semi-finals of the point’s format events at Pune.

                In the World Professional billiards at Leeds, Advani lost to Dhruv Sitwala in the quarterfinals. Sitwala lost to Russell in the final 1204-1738. At Guangzhou, Pankaj piped Nay Thway Oo (Myanmar) 3-2 to win Billiards singles title. In the team event the trio of Yasin Merchant Merchant, Aditya Mehta and BrijeshDamani earned a Silver for the country.

                In the individual Snooker event, Aditya picked up Bronze while Alok Mehta, became the first Indian to win an Asian Games medal in pool events by bagging a Bronze. Earlier in the year Pankaj overpowered Singapore’s Peter Gilchrist 6-5 to win the 2010 Asian Billiards championship in April. Eight-time world champion and veteran Geet Sethi, Rupesh Shah and Ashok Shandilya made the quarter-finals of the championship. In the Asian Snooker Championship, Yasin Merchant lost in the semi-final and finished fourth.

                At the Australian Open Billiards Championship, Geet Sethi and Saurav Kothari finished as semi-finalists. Women cueist Tamil Nadu’s Vidya Pillai won Australian Open Snooker Championship and 19th National Snooker Championship. She finished runner-up in the first National 6-Red Snooker (Women) Championship and National 8 Ball Pool Championship and managed a semi-final finish in the 19th National Billiards Championship. Maharashtra’s Meenal Thakur won the National Billiards Championship and 6 Red (women) Snooker title and was runner-up at the National Snooker Championship.

                Golfer Arjun Atwal created sort of history by winning a title on the PGA Tour but other top Indian pros including Jeev Milkha Singh’s had mixed fortunes. Atwal, became the first Indian to win on the US PGA Tour at the Wyndham Championship in August. The victory secured Atwal an invitation to next year’s Masters Tournament, making him only the second Indian after Jeev to play in the year’s first Major at Augusta National.

                On the other hand, it was mixed year for Jeev and Jyoti. For most of the season, Jeev nursed a rotator cuff injury in his left shoulder and soon after recovering from that, he was laid low by a back problem due to which he experienced the “worst pain” in his career. And this had impact on his ranking as from being the first Indian to make the top-50 of world rankings, he slipped to 168th. Jyoti Randhawa also missed several cuts on the European Tour leading to a loss of card.

                Shiv Kapur and SSP Chowrasia struggled on the circuit and as a result of the Indians’ combined poor form; the Indian Open did not have an Indian winner. Last year’s Indian open winner C Muniyappa along with Shiv Kapur and SSP Chowrasia struggled and the Indian Open did not have an Indian winner. But it was not all gloom, as 19-year-old Rashid Khan led India to a Silver medal in the Asian Games team event.

                The lanky Delhi teen turned professional a month later at the Indian Open, made the cut and even managed to break par in the final round, holding out promise for a bright future Shooter Ronjan Sodhi and Tejswani Sawant won the World titles but while Ronjan saved India blushed by winning a Gold in Asiad, Tejswani flopped. In fact shooters surprised everybody by claiming record 30-medals in Commonwealth Games but three weeks later they could manage to win partly eight medals in Asiad at Guangzhou.

                At Delhi CWG it rained Gold for Indian shooters—14 Gold, 11 Silver, five Bronze—but it was drought at Guangzhou a month later—One Gold, three silver, four bronze. However, it was the best year for Gagan Narang as he ended it with whopping 16 medals including four Gold in the Commonwealth Games and two silver in Asiad. He will end the year as the number one Asian shooter.

                Hariom Singh, Asher Noria, Vijay Kumar, Gurpreet Singh, Anisa Syed also hit the headlines with their good showings. Narang and Hariom won quota places for the London Olympics in 2012, Sodhi won Gold in the ISSF World Cup in Turkey. Tejswani Sawant and junior world champion Noria were the two world record holders of the year. Tejaswani earned the distinction of being the first Indian woman shooter to win the Gold at the World championship.

                It was a good year for Indian athletes as new stars performed beyond expectations in the Commonwealth and Asian Games. Indians pocketed record 12 medals, including two Gold, in the Commonwealth Games and the tally was two, more than the number it won in all the earlier editions.

                Discus thrower Krishna Poonia created history by breaking India’s 52-year-old games’ Gold medal jinx by winning the women’s discus throw title. Harwant Kaur and Seema Antil bagged Silver and Bronze respectively to make it record three medals for the host in one event. India also did very well in the athletics winning five Gold, two Silver and five Bronze.

                Ashwini Akkunji and Joseph Abraham claimed a rare gold double by winning men’s and women’s 400m hurdles in the Asian Games. Another runner from Kerala, Preeja Sreedharan won a gold in 10,000m and a silver in 5,000m in Guangzhou while Rae Bareilly girl Sudha Singh, won a Gold in women’s 3,000m steeple chase. The fifth Gold came in Women’s relay.

                Sushil Kumar became the first Indian wrestler and the world champion in Moscow. Even in the CWG he won the Gold with utmost ease. He has put India on the world map as far as wrestling is concerned. He opted out of the Asian Games because of shoulder injury and his absence led to the poor showing by other grapplers.

                Swimmers also sprang up a surprise with 19-year-old Virdhawal Khade winning a medal (Bronze) in the 50m butterfly event in Asian Games. This was India’s second swimming medal at the event after Khazan Singh’s 200m butterfly in 1986.

                A day after the heartbreak of the 50m freestyle final, when he lost a medal by a whisker (0.03s), Khade clocked 24.31s for a third-place finish at the Aoti Aquatics Centre. Khade has the distinction of being the youngest Indian, at 15, to qualify for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. At the Commonwealth Games, Khade did make it to the final of the 50m butterfly as he swam with top timings in all his events and rated his sixth place in the 50m butterfly semis as his best ever. Para-swimmer Prasanta Karmakar became the first Indian swimmer to fetch a medal by winning a Bronze in the 50m freestyle event.

                Country’s top-ranked squash player Saurav Ghosal won the second Asiad Bronze medal of his career, while Indian men’s and women’s teams also earned Bronze medals in the team event of the quadrennial event.

                In the Commonwealth Games, Indians failed to break the jinx of not having won any medal in tennis ever since the introduction of the sport in 1998. Somdev Devvarman was the man responsible for the resurgence Indian tennis in the year. He has now emerged as the leading torch bearer in men’s singles while the doubles scene looks good with the news of the impending reunion of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.

                Somdev destroyed top seed and higher-ranked Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan to become the first Indian to win a tennis singles Gold medal at the Asian Games. He also bagged another Gold in the men’s doubles along with Sanam Singh, besides the team Bronze.Besides two Golds, Indians also won a Silver in the mixed doubles (Sania Mirza and Vishnu Vardhan) and Bronze in both the women’s singles (Sania) and men’s team event.

                In the Commonwealth Games, Somdev won the lone Gold (in tennis). Sania claimed a Silver in women’s singles and a bronze—partnering with Rushmi Chakravarthi—in women’s doubles. Somdev, still has a long way to go, although he managed to break into the Grand Slam main draws, he could hardly move beyond the first round. However his performance in the Davis Cup play off tie against Brazil at Chennai will be remembered for long. Also the emergence of Indo-Pak express of Rohan Boppana and Aisam Ul Haq qureshi caught the eyes of the tennis buffs.

                It was year of agony for Indian hockey despite men’s team winning a Silver and a Bronze in the Commonwealth and Asian Games respectively. In the World cup held in Delhi, India finished disappointing eighth-place while in the Commonwealth Games final Australia whipped the hosts 8-0. The third-place finish in the Guangzhou Asian Games meant that Indian team will have to go through the qualifiers for making it to the 2012 London Olympics.

                The hockey administration was plagued with controversies, players revolted on the issue of salaries and the sexual harassment charges against sacked coach of women’s team MK Kaushik did no good to the Game. After the World Cup Indian men’s team went to Malaysia to take part in the Azlan Shah Cup. India shared the trophy with South Korea after the title clash was washed out.

                Meanwhile women’s team player levelled charges of coach sexual harassment against MK Kaushik. Team physio Basavaraj was also caught on camera in a “compromising” position with a prostitute during a tour of China. Indian women won a Bronze in the inaugural Asia Cup in Busan, South Korea, but came finished lowly ninth in the World Cup in Argentina.

                In the Commonwealth Games, the women finished a disappointing fifth and fourth in the Asian Games. In another popular sports Football India did not taste too much success in 2010, off-the-field, the year witnessed several key developments which have the potential to change things for the better. The national team ended the year on an apprehensive note, as it reels due to a series of defeats in international friendliest in the run up to the 2011 Asian Cup—its first world level tournament in 24 years.

                Any hopes Indian Coach Bob Houghton may have entertained of leading his band of courageous boys into the second round of the Asian showpiece event came crashing down-to-earth as the men in blue were drawn in a tough group alongside continental powerhouses South Korea, Australia and Bahrain.

                For the first time in recent years, the Indian team played friendly matches against higher ranked Asian teams like Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. However, the results on-the-field was not too encouraging. The team registered mixed performance overall in their Portugal sojurn, but it were the big defeats against high-quality international opposition that were most disappointing.

                Before embarking on their final preparatory camp in Dubai in the first week of November, the national team played a several international friendlies with mixed results. They played well against a strong Thailand side, going down 0-1 in Bangkok and 1-2 at home. The Indians won against Namibia (2-0) and Vietnam (3-1) but it was clear that they needed to vastly improve their game, if they wanted to give even a semblance of a fight to their Asian Cup rivals.

                In Dubai the Indians were made painfully aware of the vast gulf in standards. They went down 0-2 against Saudi Arabia and after that were humiliated 1-9 by Kuwait and were thrashed 0-5 by UAE. Injuries to key players have played havoc with the team’s chances as Anthony Pereira, Arindam Bhattacharya and Samir Naik were left out of the Asian Cup squad due to injury. Bhutia is also nursing a calf injury and faces a race against time in his bid to return to fitness before the event starts on January 7.

                However the spirited displays of the Indian U-23 team at the Asian Games also deserve a special mention. The young guns impressive in their Asian Games campaign as they qualified for the knock out stage from a tough group, which contained defending champions Qatar, Kuwait and Hong Kong. Off-the-field, there have been many positives for Indian football, Including the deal between the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and IMG-Reliance which will see a whopping Rs 700 crore being invested in the game over the next 15 years.

                In Chess, Vishwanathan Anand regained his World title much to the relief of his large number of fans. The less said the better about the corruption and scam tainted Commonwealth Games organising committee. With CBI, CVC and CAG after their trail lot more scandals are bound to come up, putting Indian sports administration in very poor light.

By Harpal Singh Bedi

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