2015 will be marked as one of the breakthrough year of Indian sports. Following are some of the highlights
India’s triumph in Sri Lanka in 22 years
India on September 1 clinched their first Test series victory on Sri Lankan soil in 22 years with an emphatic 117-run win over the hosts in the third and final cricket Test despite a valiant century by rival skipper Angelo Mathews.
After setting a daunting victory target of 386, India managed to dismiss the Sri Lankans for 268 on a wicket which slowed down considerably to wrap up the series 2-1, their first overseas series victory since June, 2011 against the West Indies.
It was new captain Virat Kohli’s first series win ever since he took over reins of the team from Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Indian badminton grew in stature – Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, K Srikanth to the fore
Indian shuttlers made their mark in the international scene with Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu leading from the front. Saina started the year on a brilliant note by winning the India Grand Prix. She backed it up with her lone Superseries title in March – the India Open. She also reached the finals of three extremely prestigious events – the All-England, World Championships and China Open.
On the other hand, Saina’s compatriot and double World Championship bronze medallist Sindhu, won the Macau Open Grand Prix Gold, her third consecutive title in the Chinese metropolis. Among the male shuttlers, Kidambi Srikanth won the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold and India Open Superseries to reach a career best ranking of World No.3. Meanwhile, Parupalli Kashyap won the India Grand Prix Gold.
Golden girl of Indian tennis: Sania Mirza wins unprecedented number of titles
It was a historic year for Indian tennis as Sania Mirza became the first female player from the country to win a women’s doubles Grand Slam title on way to becoming world number one even as ageless wonder Leander Paes continued to bag laurels by winning three mixed doubles titles. The season took a dramatic turn for Sania when she teamed up with Swiss great Martina Hingis in March. At the end of the season, the two had won nine titles together including the prestigious Wimbledon and the US Open apart from the year-end WTA Finals. In all, Sania won 10 titles in 2015 – nine with Martina and one with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Sania was also conferred the prestigious Khel Ratna Award – India’s highest sporting honour. Paes, who is all in readiness to make his seventh appearance at the Olympics, defied age to win the mixed doubles titles at the Australian Open, the Wimbledon and the US Open with Hingis.
Indian women’s hockey team qualified for Olympics after 35 years
While the women team returned to Olympics after a hiatus of 36 years, the men team’s 33-year-old medal jinx in a major international tournament also ended. The Indian women’s hockey team made a return to the Olympics after a long gap of 36 years as it qualified for next year’s Rio Games. The team took the quota place on the basis of its fifth-place finish in the women’s Hockey World League Semifinals. The men broke their medal jinx in a major
international tournament by winning bronze medal in the Hockey World League (HWL) Finals held at Raipur.
Vijender Singh – Professional boxing arrives in India
Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh’s stunning professional debut and Shiva Thapa’s World Championships medal lifted Indian boxing to new heights.
Vijender, the country’s first ever Olympic medallist, took the entire Indian boxing fraternity by surprise with his decision to turn professional during, what was called, a training trip to the UK. But he has managed to prove the naysayers wrong with his confident performances so far that saw him remain unbeaten this year, including three knockout wins in three fights. Meanwhile, Thapa became only the third Indian boxer ever to win a medal at the World Chamionships. It was a brilliant year for the 22-year-old Assamese during which he won a bronze at the Asian Championships before the historic bronze at the World Championships in Doha.
India end 11-year gold drought in Table Tennis
Indian men claimed the team championship beating England 3-1 in the final of the 20th Avadh Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships with Sharath Kamal, Soumyadeep Roy and Subhajit Saha forming the core of the team. It was the first title for the Indian team since the 2004 edition in Kuala Lumpur.
New Leagues in Badminton and Wrestling
Based on the lines of a successful Pro Kabaddi League, the Indian wrestling ushered into a new era with the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) taking its first breath this year. The ancient Olympic sport joined the bandwagon of franchise-based leagues that started with cricket in the country.
Meanwhile, the Badminton Association of India’s organizing committee decided to rename the Indian Badminton League (IBL) as Premier Badminton League (PBL) in its new avatar. The League, which is scheduled to be held from January 2 to 17 next year, is slated to be the largest ever badminton tournament which will bring some of the most noted names in the field of the sport together.
When Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal clashed in Delhi
Indian tennis fans got their shot at one of the biggest rivalries of world tennis when a vintage Roger Federer and a classy Rafael Nadal – the two great legends of the game – faced off in the International Premier Tennis League’s (IPTL) Delhi leg.
The IPTL, an event which has gained decent popularity after a successful inaugural season, is the brainchild of India’s very own doubles hero Mahesh Bhupathi. In the much awaited match, Indian Aces’ Nadal prevailed over UAE Royals’ Federer.
Satnam Singh’s ticket to NBA
A monumental year for Indian basketball grew even more historic as Satnam Singh Bhamara became the first Indian basketball player to be drafted in the National Basketball Association (NBA) after being picked by Dallas Mavericks. The 19-year-old, who hails from a remote village in Punjab and stands 7-feet-2 -nches tall, was the 52nd pick in the NBA Draft.
Earlier, Gursimran ‘Sim’ Bhullar became the first player of Indian origin to play in the NBA when he turned out for the Kings in three games in April.