Sports
Sports 2016: India on the rise

By: Trans World Features/IBNS

Sports 2016: India on the rise
The sporting world was abuzz with major events like the Olympics and Euro Cup and Cricket T20 World Cup. Though the usual suspects made it big, 2016 truly belonged to the newcomers, who made the right splash at the biggest level. IBNS-TWF correspondent Sudipto Maity looks back at the year gone by.

Cricket

This sport witnessed a sea change this year. From India's (BCCI) change in their UDRS (Umpires Decision Referral System) to the return of the Caribbean Calypso, the cricketing world was jam packed with action. Here's a list of the few glorious moments.


Return of the Caribbean Calypso: The late mid-1970's was all about Sir Clive Lloyd and his team of invincibles. His tenure produced more individuals than any other captain who's led his/her side. As the mighty Vivian Richards hung his boots in 1991, West Indies cricket was slowly heading towards its decline. With Brian Charles Lara as the cornerstone of Caribbean cricket for the next one and a half decades, the team lost series one after the other. These days, the side, once feared by all as the greatest Test playing nation, receives flak for the lack of temperament, but they still rule the roost when it comes to the limited overs format. In 2016, West Indies completed the treble by clinching the ICC U-19 World Cup, the ICC World Twenty20 (women) and the ICC World Twenty20 (men), all in fine fashion.

Bravo the 'Champion': Dwayne Bravo, the West Indies all rounder composed a song before the ICC World Twenty20 to lift his team's morale as they fought several in-house battles. The song not only helped them clinch the title, it made the round in several other events. Complete with a dance move, Champion was the song of the season in the sporting world.

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).

Virat Kohli: 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.

Karun Nair: 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.

Ravindra Jadeja: 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 my 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.  

UDRS: 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!!!

Mustafizur Rahman: Nicknamed the 'Fizz', this Bangadeshi cricketer was awarded the Emerging Player of the Year at the ICC annual awards. The southpaw made a name for himself by virtue of his ability to bowl a well disguised 'slower'. Mustafiz was the cynosure of his fraternity and gave a test of his character at the 2016 edition of the IPL. He bamboozled batsmen while piquing curiosity of other bowlers with the ease he went about his job.  
   
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 

From Ronaldo's Euro win to Messi's 'retirement', the football world wasn't devoid of action.

Messi decides to hang his boots: In the month of June, earlier this year, Argentine striker Lionel Messi left his fans and the fraternity shell shocked as he announced his retirement. A decision taken in haste, the FC Barcelona star decided to quit playing for his country following Argentina's humiliating loss against Chile in the Copa America Final. However, less than two months after his announcement, the fans breathed a sign of relief as he broke his retirement and was eventually named in the country's squad for World Cup Qualifiers.

Ronaldo's Euro win: He came, he played and he won. Cristiano Ronaldo may not have scored the winning goal, as he was sidelined with an injury much before the ending whistle was blown, but his guidance from the pitch side proved his desperation. Portugal won and Ronaldo lifted the silverware, as France witnessed another CR7 episode.

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.

 
Boxing

Vijender still unstoppable



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.

 
Olympics

Sakshi...Sindhu...Dipa bring home the smiles


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.

Sakshi Malik: 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.

PV Sindhu: 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.

Dipa Karmakar: 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!          

Bolt's 'Triple Triple': The fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt also completed his 'Triple-Triple' Gold medal run at the Rio Olympics. What started off in China in 2008, culminated in Rio, earlier this year. The man was simply unstoppable as he stumbled, yet got up to win the Gold.

Schooling schools Phelps: Michael Phelps might be the greatest Olympian ever, but he was schooled by an unheralded Joseph Issac Schooling from Singapore, who won the Gold in 100m Butterfly event at the Rio Olympics. Some pointed out Phelps' overconfidence, while the new champion was hailed by his country, who gave them the first taste of an Olympic Gold medal.

Michael bids farewell: With 28 Olympic medals, swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. He made his presence felt in 2004 at the Athens Olympics, winning six Gold and two Bronze medals. The following one he stole the show with eight Gold medals. At the ensuing London Olympics, Phelps won four more Gold in addition to two Silver medals. This year at the Rio Olympics, the swimmer ended with five Gold and one Silver medal. He decided to hand his boot soon after.   

 

Tennis 

 
Murray takes on Novak, emerges on the top

Australian Open: The year’s first major grand slam witnessed the Serbian Novak Djokovic beating his British opponent Andy Murray to cinch the men’s singles title while the women’s glory went to  Angelique Kerber. She defeated US star Serena Williams to grab the first grand slam event of 2016. In 2017, the Australian Open has hiked prize money to a significant high amount of $50 million. The January month is just round the corner and players are gearing up to assemble in Australia to play and entertain fans on the court.

French Open: Novak Djokovic continued his dominance on the court and went on to win the second major title of the year by beating Murray again. In the women’s singles event, it was Garbiñe Muguruza, who tasted victory by beating Serena Williams.

India shared some moment of glory in the tournament when Leander Paes teamed up with Martina Hingis to beat Sania Mirza and her partner Ivan Dodig to win the mixed doubles event.

Wimbledon: The Tennis world assembled in England where the prestigious Wimbledon title was won by Scot star Andy Murray. In the women’s singles event, Serena Williams returned to form and took home the title.

US Open: Stan Wawrinka won the men’s singles event while the women’s grand slam title was grabbed by Angelique Kerber. 

Olympics: Away from the grand slams, 2016 also marked the Beijing Olympics where Tennis stars competed to grab the gold for their nation.

The Men’s singles event was won by Scot Andy Murray.

Puerto Rican Monica Puig won the women’s singles gold medal.

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 Mirza: 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.

Andy Murray: What an year it has been for this sportsman. Andy Murray won the Wimbledon, the Olympic Gold Medal and to cap it all, he ended the year as the new number one ranked player. Murray edged past arch rival Novak Djokovic to be placed at the summit.

Novak Djokovic: He may have replaced by Andy Murray as the new number one in the ATP rankings, but tennis' poster child won the French Open for the very first time, earlier this year. By virtue of his achievement, Djokovic also completed a Career Grand Slam (Winning all the four Grand Slam at least once). he is currently placed at number two in the rankings.

 
Paralympics: Marked by grit...lifted by the spirit


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.