New Delhi, Dec 28 (IANS) It was a year of many firsts for Indian sports with a number of new leagues taking off but controversy was not too far behind as a betting scandal among team principals in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) created ripples in the world of cricket.
Corporates and prominent names from Bollywood and sports played a key role in shaping domestic franchise-based leagues. Thanks to their involvement, most of these leagues were organised and presented on a professional level, giving the Indian viewers a package never seen before.
Following the success of domestic franchise-based leagues such as the IPL, Hockey India League (HIL) and Indian Badminton League (IBL) in past years, it rained sports leagues in 2014.
Notwithstanding India’s nosedive in FIFA rankings to 171, it was a new dawn for football in the country.
The highly-awaited Indian Super League (ISL) finally kicked-off after many hiccups and changed the dynamics with which the sport would now be viewed in the future.
Juxtaposed with Bollywood, cricket and former international stars, the ISL was received with much fanfare all around the country. Football starved fans went gung-ho and the avarage attendance in ISL matches broke all domestic records.
Tennis fans in the country also had a momentous year. It was a double bonanza for the racquet sport followers with the start of not one but two leagues.
While the much-touted International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) grabbed all the headlines, thanks to its starcast with the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic gracing India for the first time, the more domestic flavour of the Vijay Amritraj headed Champions Tennis League (CTL) was also received well.
The year also saw the revival of India’s premier indigenous sport – kabaddi. Two leagues jostled to make their mark – the Pro Kabaddi League and the World Kabaddi League.
Both attracted fans in huge numbers and turned around the fortunes of the sport in terms of popularity.
Indian cricket went through another tumultuous year on and off the field with a controversy that shook the very foundation of the game’s governing body – the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) – that refused to die down and spilled over to the New Year after raising several tough questions for its beleaguered president, N. Srinivasan.
Srinivasan was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons throughout the year as his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was implicated by the Mudgal Committee report on the betting and match-fixing scandal during IPL-6.
He himself faced several embarrassing and potentially image-damaging questions.
On-field performances also began on a wrong note for India, losing their away two-match Test series against New Zealand 0-1 and the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series 0-4.
The team’s form plummeted further in the Asia Cup final in Bangladesh and the subsequent Twenty20 World Cup, getting outplayed in the final by Sri Lanka.
The team’s misery continued in its tour of England, losing both the Test and ODI series, 1-3.
India sought comfort at home against the West Indies and led 2-1 in the four-match ODI series when the touring side, embroiled in a payment dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the players union, called off the remainder of the tour with a Twenty20 and three Test matches still to be played.
India’s tour of Australia also started off poorly with the visitors losing the first two Tests in the four-match series.
Still, there was something to cheer about as batsman Rohit Sharma’s 264 in Kolkata against Sri Lanka became the highest individual score in an ODI.
Badminton had a standout year for India. The women’s team clinched its first bronze in the Uber Cup. They lost to eventual champions Japan 2-3 in the semifinal.
Star shuttler Saina Nehwals’s early part of the year was marked with below-par performances as she was hounded by injuries.
Her split with childhood coach Pullela Gopichand to train under Vimal Kumar in the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bengaluru dramatically turned around her fortunes as she became the first Indian woman to win the China Open Super Series.
Indian male shuttlers also did the nation proud. While Kidambi Srikanth, who has risen to World No.4, stunned two-time Olympic and five-time World champion Lin Dan to win China Open title, Parupalli Kashyap etched his name firmly in the history books by becoming the first Indian in 32 years to win a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games.
Indian men’s hockey took giant strides towards reclaiming its position as one of the biggies of the sport with an Asian Games gold after 16 years, finishing runners-up in the Commonwealth Games and a few other memorable victories against top-ranked teams but their momentum took a beating following chief coach Terry Walsh’s resignation.
Indian sportspersons put up commendable performances in the Commonwealth Games held at Glasgow and Asian Games at Incheon.
India won 64 medals (15 gold, 30 silver and 19 bronze) in the Commonwealth Games and was placed fifth in medals tally.
India won 57 medals (11 gold, 10 silver and 36 bronze) in Incheon, finishing in the eighth position. But the quadrennial event will be remembered more in the country for the incident surrounding women’s boxer Sarita Devi.
Furious after losing her semifinal bout to South Korea’s Park Ji-na in the women’s lightweight division, Sarita refused to accept her bronze medal, alleging biased judging and was later handed a one-year ban by the sport’s world governing body.
Highlights of the year:
* New football, tennis, kabaddi leagues a success
* Rohit Sharma sets the record for the highest individual score – 264 – in ODIs
* IPL in fresh betting scandals
* Sarita Devi in the docks during the Asian Games
* Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth make history
(Santosh Rao can be contacted at [email protected])