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India basks in 'Wo-mania', legend of Kohli grows in 2016

 PTI |  2016-12-30 14:20:28.0  |  New Delhi

India basks in Wo-mania, legend of Kohli grows in 2016

As is the case once every four years, Olympic sports found themselves in the middle of inescapable spotlight when India's largest ever contingent made its way to Rio de Janeiro for the 31st edition of the 'greatest show on earth'.

A record number of 117 athletes 63 men and 54 women landed in the Brazilian carnival city with the rather unrealistic expectations of going better on the half a dozen medals secured in London, 2012.

The Sports Ministry and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) had contributed to the unreasonable hype with their outrageous predictions of at least 10-12 medals coming from Rio, a claim hardly questioned before the Games.

At the mega-event, the script went terribly awry and more than a week passed without India coming anywhere close to the podium barring a couple of near misses, most notable being shooting ace Abhinav Bindra and gritty gymnast Dipa Karmakar's fourth-place finishes in their respective events.

But just as it seemed that Rio would end barren for India, Sakshi Malik and P V Sindhu saved the country the blushes. While Sindhu became the first shuttler and the first Indian woman athlete to notch up a silver medal, Sakshi became the first female grappler to win an Olympic medal with a bronze that hardly anyone had predicted.

These two medals and Karmakar's fourth-place finish in a sport that is not even understood well in India, prevented a complete loss of face. Fittingly, the three were presented the country's highest sporting honour Khel Ratna jointly.

But what their heroics could not cover up was the fact that in all these years, government, SAI and the Indian Olympic Association have only been able to make it easy for athletes to claim money once they have made a mark.

So, the harsh reality of Indian sports remained the absence of any systematic support for athletes in their formative years which, as seen in Rio, cannot be compensated by doling out crores barely a year before the Olympics.

On the cricket field though 2016 well and truly belonged to India, more specifically to Kohli and his 'weapon of choice' Ravichandran Ashwin.

An 18-match unbeaten streak in Tests (starting from Sri Lanka 2015) - the best-ever by an Indian team - was a testimony to how well Kohli fitted into the leadership role in white flannels.

When he took over captaincy from the 'cool as cucumber' Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the Test format, there were apprehensions that the ever-emotional Kohli might even end up having a meltdown due to the twin pressure of leadership and being India's top batsman.

So far, he has proved the naysayers wrong with the kind of elegance he generally reserves for his strokes.

Kohli has remained India's best batsman and has proved to be a dynamic leader too, transforming a young team into confident world beaters at least on home turf.

In the limited-overs format, where Dhoni is still in charge, India won the Asia Cup T20 before finishing semifinalists in the World T20.

However, the administrative mess that is common to most Indian sports caught up in a big way with cricket as well.

With the Supreme Court bent on imposing governance reforms in the BCCI through the Lodha Committee, the once all-powerful Board has been left scurrying for cover.

Severely crippled on the decision-making front, the BCCI is currently staring at a tense future and a January 3 ruling by the apex court is expected to put an end to its anxiety.

However, India held the high post internationally with Shashank Manohar taking over as ICC Chairman. .

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