Sindhu, Sakshi’s performances; Ashwin, Virat’s exploits highlights of 2016

PV Sindhu SilverThe foregone year will forever be remembered as it stood at the behest of a transition from cricket to other sports. Having witnessed its fair share of highs and lows, we look to dissect the year that was. No strings attached.

Top 10 moments to cherish

10. Indian Soccer Team's merry run

Rounding up the top 10 is the Indian Football Team's dream run as they climbed 31 spots this year to finish at 135 in the latest FIFA rankings, their highest in the past six years. This can be attributed to their scintillating performances in the SAFF Championship where they went on to lift the trophy after beating Afghanistan in the finals.

9. Dravid's Men-in-Blue

The junior teams recorded noteworthy performances reaching the final of the U-19 World Cup and unbeaten runs in away fixtures. Dravid's forte -- his temperament and composure -- has brushed off on a number of players in the side, staking their claim for a national team call up.

8. Vijender Singh's unbeaten run

The Haryanvi boxer has made a mark for himself on the international stage with a string of consistent performances to remain unbeaten in his professional boxing career. He successfully defended his WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title against Francis Cheka on December 17. It is to be noted that all his bouts ended in virtual knockouts.

7. Ashwin's Bowling and Virat's Batting

These two are arguably the best in the business at present and much of India's rampant run of form can be attributed to their individual performances. Ravichandran Ashwin became the third India player and 12th player overall to win the prestigious Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy after being named as the ICC Cricketer of the Year 2016. Virat Kohli was chosen to lead the ODI Team of the Year.

6. Athletico de Kolkata crowned ISL champions for the 2nd time

In what turned to be a battle of two former Indian greats of sorts, Sourav Ganguly's Kolkata emerged victorious against Sachin Tendulkar's Kerala after a stiff competition between the two sides. The game went into the penalty shootouts where Kolkata won 4-3 to lift the cup for the 2nd time.

5. India win men's Hockey Junior World Cup

Home favourites India produced a clinical performance to outclass maiden finalists Belgium 2-1 and clinch their second Hockey Junior World Cup title after a 15-year-gap. Gurjant Singh and Simranjeet Singh scored the two goals for India, who had won their previous Under-21 world title in 2001 in Hobart, Australia.

4. India crowned the Kabaddi World Champions

India staged a heroic comeback in the second half to beat Iran and lift the World Cup for third time in a row. Ajay Thakur was the star performer claiming 12 points in the final. Iran fought valiantly and surprised everybody taking the lead going in to first half break at 18-13, but Thakur changed the momentum in the second half. Nitin Tomar put in a memorable performance and India's fantastic defence ensured an Indian win.

3. PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik's Olympic Dream

From India's perspective, this Olympics belonged to the nation's daughters who made us proud by winning laurels in various fronts. Shuttler PV Sindhu became the first Indian woman to win a silver medal at the mega event, while Sakshi Malik became the first Indian woman wrestler to win a medal (bronze) at Olympics. Sakshi Malik ended India’s agonising wait for a medal at Rio Olympics as she won a bronze defeating Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan after trailing 0-5 in the first period, while Sindhu lost to Carolina Marin 21-19, 12-21, 15-21 in the final.

2. Team India ends the year on a high

Team India extended their unbeaten run to a record 18 Tests and strengthened their hold at the top of the ladder as they prepare for another grueling season ahead. India ended 2016 as the number-one ranked Test side on the ICC Test Team Rankings after registering a 4-0 victory over England in the five-match series which culminated with an innings and 75 runs win for the home side in Chennai. The series win helped India gain five points and it has moved to 120 points in the last Test team rankings update of 2016, 15 points ahead of second-placed Australia.

1. Paralympian Strength!

There are no prizes for guessing the best moment in Indian sports over the past year. It surely was the incredible show put up by our Paralympians clinching two golds and a silver and a bronze apiece. This included a world record breaking effort by Devendra Jhajharia in javelin throw.

Top 10 Flops

There is always the other side to the coin. This is not a utopian world which has no place for blemishes. While we laud our heroes for making us proud, we also frown upon those who have been out of place. So, here's the top 10 flops throwing lights on those moments which have not gone down well amongst the masses.

10. The spin off leagues not capturing enough viewership

The leagues which began in the aftermath of the tremendous success garnered by the Indian Premier League (IPL) have not been able to attract the magnitude of crowds witnessed by the IPL. This is a cause of concern. But with attention swaying in favour of other sports, things might change with time.

9. Indian Super League criticized for quality of play

With audiences being treated to high quality and aggressive play in the EPL, La Liga and other European heavyweight leagues, the Indian Super League has been criticized on several occasions for its slow and lackluster play. Roping in quality foreign players and putting them in the mix with domestic talents will certainly pay dividends to the league. Rest assured, it may sound easy but is definitely not.

8. The man with the midas touch, maybe not any longer?

Indian limited overs skipper MS Dhoni's form with the bat has been in a spot of bother of late with questions being raised on his persistent inclusion in the team. The wicketkeeper batsman has been struggling to be amongst the runs, also lost his knack for finishing games consistently and has hit a lean patch of late. One might only hope that the new year turns the tide in his favour which will also boost the team's morale and chances of winning.

7. Badminton "queen" Saina dethroned at the Games

A lot of hopes were pitted on Saina Nehwal with the odds in her favour as she emerged as a strong candidate in securing a medal for the country but a shock second round exit meant the Indians were found wanting with only of their brightest talents failing to deliver when it mattered the most.

6. Tennis heavyweights were a no show as well

To add to the agonising run of form, seasoned campaigner Leander Paes along with Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza were also expected to deliver in Rio Olympics but could not live up to the mark with their hopes coming crashing down after a string of lackluster performances and early exits.

5. Team India's horrific display in the limited overs

Going down in the ODI series in Australia, then the T20 World Cup at home and managing to sneak in a 3-2 victory against New Zealand at home certainly did not bode well with the cricket fans in the country considered the iconic status of the sport in the country.

4. Wrestling hit by doping scandals

Apart from Sakshi Malik, there was nothing much to savour from the wrestling events at the Games. It all began with ace wrestler Sushil Kumar failing to make the cut to the Rio Games which was followed by Narsingh Yadav's doping scandal which did not go well with the authorities.

3. Team India failing to clinch the T20 World Cup

A lot of hopes were pinned on the hosts being crowned the T20 champions for the second time, but they went down to the Windies in the semi-finals which came as a huge shock to the fans. What made the loss even more painful was the fact that it was played at home with conditions favouring the hosts who failed to capitalise the situation and emerge victorious.

2. Bindra calls it quits!

Ace shooter and former Olympic Gold Medalist Abhinav Bhindra called it a day in the backdrop of a poor performance at the Olympic Games. In spite of the fact that he came in at 4th in the 50m pistol event, the pain of not winning a medal for the nation forced him to relinquish.

1. Dismal performance at the Games.

In spite of a lot of medal prospects, with India sending its largest ever contingent to the Rio Games and managing only 2 medals, this was easily a games to forget for the nation. Although there were a lot of positives to take from this outing, the shame that not a single gold was captured superseded all the glorious performances put up by our athletes.

2017 promises to be a year where sports other than cricket will be revered a lot more with emphasis on the infrastructure and the quality of training provided to these professionals yielding exceptional results and in turn more followers for these sports.