India tasted some success in sports in 2015. If Indian men hockey team went on to finish on the podium at Sultan Azlan Shah and World Hockey League, the tennis stars, including Sania Mirza and Leander Paes, too, showed their mettle by winning the Grand Slams in doubles and mixed doubles. Saina Nehwal became World No. 1 for a brief period of time in badminton, while Pankaj Advani won a few more world titles. Anirban Lahiri was in top form as he went on to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit apart from catapulting into top 50 in world rankings.
Here is a small overview of various sports in 2015:
1. Hockey: It has been a successful year for Indian hockey. Women team qualified for Rio Olympics after three decades, while Indian men found the power and finished third in Sultan Shah Trophy and World Hockey League. Both men and women teams improved on their rankings and finished on the podiums, which gave immense joy to hockey lovers back home and is surely a good sign before Rio Olympics.
2. Tennis: Indians dominated the doubles circuit this year. Three doubles Grand Slams, each in women’s doubles and mixed doubles by Sania Mirza and Leander Paes, respectively, showed tennis in India is on the uphill ride. Sania ended as the top player in women’s doubles along with Martina Hingis. Yuki Bhambri too on his part cracked into the top 100 in men’s singles. Indians can expect a tennis medal in Rio if things move without much hindrance.
3. Cricket: After disappointing finish at World Cup and Bangladesh, India were back to form with Test series win in Sri Lanka. Later, they trounced the top team South Africans in the Test series back home. With Asia Cup and T20 World Cup on road, India need to combine well to taste success in colour clothing. Under-19 team, too, has equipped well ahead of their world cup under Rahul Dravid.
4. Golf: Indian golf in 2015 was synonymous to the success story of Anirban Lahiri, who not only won the Asian Tour Order of merit, but also made his way into the top 50 in world rankings. The 28-year-old enjoyed a stellar campaign this season where he won twice on the region’s premier Tour, broke into the world’s top-50, posted a top-five finish in a Major, qualified for his maiden Presidents Cup and earned his PGA Tour card. Apart from Lahiri, SSP Chowrasia, too, too was quite consistent on the Asian Tour, while Chirag Kumar went on to win the Panasonic Open India. Meanwhile in July, Shubham Jaglan claimed the IMG Academy junior world championship for the 9-10 age category in San Diego.
5. Badminton: Badminton was another sport that made quite a progress in 2015. Saina Nehwal went on to win two titles this year – the Syed Modi International Championships and the Yonex Sunrise India Open – which catapulted her to the World No. 1 position, though for a brief period of time. She managed a few upsets in 2015, including Carolina Marin, the world number one. Meanwhile, PV Sindhu successfully defended the Macau Open after beating Korea’s Kim Hyo Min in straight games. She even defeated the World and All England Champion Carolina Marin to enter her first ever Super Series final. Meanwhile in men’s section, Srikanth Kidambi, the best Indian men’s player at present, had a fantastic first half as he went on to win two titles, including the Swiss Open 2015 and Yonex Sunrise India Open. P Kashyap won the Syed Modi International Badminton Championships and the VIVO BWF Sudirman Cup. In doubles, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa broke into the top 10 rankings twice by winning the VIVO BWF Sudirman Cup and the Yonex Canada Open.
6. Football: Though the team went through some rough patches, individual highlights brought football to headlines this year. Sunil Chetri scoring 50 international goals and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu getting European berth were highlights in men. Though there were some fine performances, it could not take the team to the finish line. However, Indian fans got to see some quality football in the form of Indian Super League. Aditi Chauhan brought laurels to women by winning the best player award in England.
7. Other Sports: Indians found good amount of success in other sports as well. Pankaj Advani proved his excellence by dominating his game. He not only won the IBSF World Billiards Championship, but also the IBSF World Snooker Championship, making it the 15th world title for him. In boxing, Vijender Singh turned professional and so far has won both his pro bouts. Athletics saw Vikas Gowda making it to finals of some big tournaments and getting Olympic berth. Sapna, too, qualified for Olympics making the team tally to 15. Shooters have also booking their berths for Rio.
By Venkat Harish