2018 turned out to be year of glory for sports other than cricket in India. From record-breaking performances in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, to achieving the highest ever medal tally in the Asian Games — India saw the rise and rise of struggling and unsung athletes in both individual and team sports, perhaps paving the way for a commensurate haul in the 2020 Olympics. Shooting stands out as the biggest hunting ground in the two big sporting events of the year, where apart from the experienced Hina Sidhu and Jitu Rai, the teenage trio of Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary and Anish Bhanwala emerged as the ones to be looked out for in the future. Their sensational triumph at such a tender age was the signage of the treasure for the future. Not just in shooting, but in athletics, too, young unheard of guns, like Hima Das, Neeraj Chopra and Swapna Barman, emerged as the delightful surprise packages. The biggest positive with all these young champions, who set the track on fire for the first time, is the fact that all these are just beginners in their respective sports and have a lot more to give in the coming years. In second most popular sport in the country after cricket, PV Sindhu failed to break the jinx of winning titles throughout the year but the Olympic Silver medallist finally in the last and the most important tourney of the season, the BWF World Tour Finals, broke all barriers to become the first Indian to even win the posh year-ender. In the process, she also surpassed the supposedly invincible Tai Tzu Ying.
Also, in the other big moment of brilliance, another Phogat sister, Vinesh, who had cracked up in the Rio Olympics and stretchered out of the mat, completed her golden double in 2018 by winning back-to-back yellow metal. But the biggest gain was the rise of paddler Manika Batra, the lissome Delhi girl, who led India to its first ever Gold in Table Tennis Team and individual events, winning four medals, including two Golds. But it wasn’t everything to cheer as for the first time since the sport was introduced in the Asian Games, the Indian kabaddi team failed to defend its title after a disappointing loss to Iran in the Asian Games semi-final. The surprise exit raised eyebrows over partisan team selection. In hockey, too, the failure of defending Asian Games title and disappointment in World Cup was the dismal highlight. In cricket, after an eight-wicket loss to England in the women’s World T20 semi-final, Indian women’s cricket got highlighted for all the wrong reasons. The surprise omission of in-form Mithali Raj from the playing XI led to a flurry of allegations by the former skipper against the team’s coach Ramesh Powar, all of them reaching the public domain through a leaked e-mail to the BCCI. In the men’s cricket though Virat Kohli’s sensational form continued, his new-age team failed to conquer overseas situations. After 146-run loss against Australia in the second Test at Perth, India’s hope of improving its Test record abroad faced a massive setback. In the 2018 calendar year, India travelled to South Africa, England and Australia for three, five and four-match series, respectively. But even after the record-breaking performance by Indian pacers, the side faced humiliating defeats to pop up questions about what more is needed to conquer the foreign soil.
Writer and Courtesy: The Pioneer