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Millennium Post

Looking back: Some highs, some lows

Looking back: Some highs, some lows
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There was the usual administrative wrangling in some sports but all that was thrown into the backburner by a hectic schedule which included Commonwealth and Asian Games.

On the cricket field, the courtroom drama surrounding IPL spot-fixing scandal, which made N Srinivasan a BCCI president-in-exile, hogged daily headlines, a sad commentary on the state of a game for which India is a spiritual home and biggest money-spinner as well.

If the scandal left followers of the game disturbed, they were in for a huge shock when MS Dhoni retired from Test cricket in the last week of the year. It was a bolt from the blue given that ‘Captain Cool’ hardly dropped any hint of the “strain” of playing all three formats, which he cited as the reason for bidding adieu to Test cricket.

On the brighter side, India found itself back in the Olympic fold after the International Olympic Committee lifted the ban on IOA in February. This was after IOA successfully conducted fresh elections in which N Ramachandran took over as the body’s new president.

Heartwarming tales also emerged from the Commonwealth and Asian Games arena where Indian athletes came up with sterling performances. The ones who stood out most notably were the celebrated wrestling duo of Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, pistol shooter Jitu Rai and boxer M C Mary Kom.

The year began with the cricket team continuing its dismal away run by going down to a lower-ranked New Zealand in a Test series. But the IPL razzmatazz a couple of months later ensured that the poor result was quickly forgotten. However, the spot-fixing and betting scandal that gripped the glamorous league was so enormous that the impact of it is being felt even now.

BCCI was forced to postpone its AGM owing to adverse observations from the Supreme Court after an inquiry committee appointed by it came up with an explosive report which indicted high-profile names such as Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra and Chennai Super Kings team principal Gurunath Meiyappan, Srinivasan’s son-in-law.

The frenzy surrounding the IPL scandal was offset by India’s reasonably good show in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Th e country pulled off a creditable fifth-place finish with 64 medals, including 15 gold. India managed to clinch a top-10 finish in Asian Games as well, signing off eighth with 57 medals, including 11 gold.

The year was also the first time since 1989, when an Indian cricket team’s list didn’t have Sachin Tendulkar’s name in it. While Rohit Sharma’s record-breaking 264 against Australia in Kolkata will always be remembered, the tragic death of Aussie batsman Phillip Hughes (25) will never be forgotten.

There was some cheer on the hockey field finally. An Asian Games gold after a 16-year hiatus and a direct ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games were some of the high points in what was a rare successful year for Indian hockey even though national coach Terry Walsh’s unceremonious resignation provided a bitter ending to 2014. Besides the Asian Games gold medal in Incheon, South Korea, the men’s team registered several other memorable victories including a historic Test series win against world champions Australia in their own backyard.

On to the wrestling mat, a long sabbatical and a rejig in weight categories notwithstanding, Olympic heroes Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt reaffirmed their dominance at the world stage, which included ending a 28-year gold drought at the Asian Games, even as youngsters showed the quality of Indian wrestling’s talent reservoir. Yogeshwar, in fact, ended India’s 28-year wait for wrestling  gold at the Asian Games by bagging the yellow metal at Incheon in September. Having shifted from 60kg category, London Olympics bronze-medallist Yogeshwar won the gold in the 65kg division, while two-time Olympic medal winner Sushil bagged the silver in 74kg class.

It turned out to be a watershed year for badminton as well with the home shuttlers clinching no less than eight individual titles besides breaking new grounds in team championships, making India a dominant force at the international stage.

Saina Nehwal and K Srikanth clinching titles at China Super Series Premier and P V Sindhu bagging five bronze, including a World Championship medal, besides the historic bronze medals at Uber Cup and Asian Games, were the highlights of the year in which Indian badminton achieved unprecedented success at the global platform.

At the shooting ranges too, Indians called the shots but it was ‘Pistol King’ Jitu Rai who truly lived upto the sobriquet with a stunning display, leaving the other big guns gazing at the dizzy heights he touched in his annus mirabilis.

As a whole, India did not set the stage ablaze with their guns at the Glasgow Commonwealth and Incheon Asian Games or the various World Cups and World Championships, but they did just enough to maintain the consistent run that had begun at the turn of the century.

Rai was the standout performer by some distance though well-established names such as Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang and Manavjit Singh Sandhu, among others, too excelled on and off. And so was the younger lot like Ayonika Paul, Apurvi Chandela and Mohammad Asab to name a few.

In tennis, Sania Mirza grabbed her third mixed doubles Grand Slam title and wrapped up her dream season with the year-end finale trophy even as India’s established male tennis players found the going tough. Sania won the US Open with first-time partner Bruno Soares and now has three mixed doubles Grand Slam trophies in her cabinet which already consists of Australian Open and French Open.

Elsewhere, ace cuiest Pankaj Advani added some more sheen to his golden career by taking his world title count from 8 to 12 in a landmark year for himself and the sport. In the boxing ring, the pugilists combined to bring home five medals, four silver and one bronze, from the Commonwealth Games.

In football, the ‘sleeping giant’woke up to a new dawn with the Indian Super League (ISL) putting Indian football on the global map, but the national team continued to paint a grim picture, plummeting to its worst-ever rankings of 174. ISL turned out to be a fairly successful event, graced by former stars such as Alessandro Del Piero, Robert Pires, Marco Materrazi, Luis Garcia and Nicolas Anelka, among others. In the final played in Mumbai, Atletico de Kolkata defeated  Kerala Blasters 1-0 to clinch the inaugural title. 

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