As India celebrated its 75th year of Independence yesterday as a sports enthusiast several memories came back to haunt me. There have been several expected and unexpected triumphs and some brave gestures in the sporting arena that refuse to leave my memory. It was a tough task to compile these as there was a constant fear of some notable omissions. However, I have put together some exhilarating, shocking and ecstatic moments that everyone in this generation should be aware of. So let’s get started.
Unforgettable sporting moments post India’s independence
Hockey Gold at London Olympics ’48
The 1948 Olympics was special for many reasons. The London edition of the sporting extravaganza was happening after a gap of 12 years with the world still struggling to come to terms with life in the aftermath of World War II. India was participating as an independent nation for the first time in the backyard of their erstwhile rulers. The horrors of partition were yet to die down but the nation sent 80 Indian contingents to take part in the sporting carnival. As expected the much-celebrated hockey team brought Independent India its first Gold in a team event by beating Great Britain in the final (4-0). Everyone was anticipating an Indo-Pak clash in the final but Pakistan’s loss to Great Britain in the Semi-Final killed all the hopes. But, India played brilliantly under the captaincy of Kishen Lal and the victory was considered special as the team was in an Olympics for the first time without stalwarts, including Dhyan Chand, of the pre-independent era.
Barefooted Brilliance of the ’48 Football team
The issue has generated a lot of heat for the last few days but let’s not get into any controversy. The 1948 Olympics is also of paramount significance for India because its football team went into the event with naked feet. Despite playing barefoot, the Indian players won the hearts of everyone by showing a rare display of valour and determination in their solitary match against France. Notwithstanding the 1-2 loss, the boys provided enough glimpses of their barefooted exploits on the field. The final scoreline would have read differently had the team not missed two critical penalties. Sadly, the Indian football team has not qualified for the Olympics since 1960 and this has mystified several experts of the game.
Kapil’s Devils sink mighty Windies
The team came into the 1983 Prudential World Cup with zilch expectations as it failed to go beyond the first stage in the previous two editions in 1975 and 1979. Even the players, excluding captain Kapil Dev, were expecting to take an early flight from London, the venue of the World Cup. However, it was Kapil’s confidence and doggedness that instilled among the team members the ‘can do’ belief. The team reached the final of the event much to the shock of cricket pundits and beat the unconquerable Windies. Kapil’s stunning catch in the final to dismiss Viv Richards is still fresh in the memory, so is the captain lifting the cup at the Lord’s.
Gavaskar’s Melbourne Walkout in 1981
India drew the series 1-1 against Australia in their backyard in 1981 as Kapil Dev wreaked havoc in the second innings of the Melbourne Test with a fifer to dismiss OZ for 83. India also defended a low score of 143 in the Test but all these things took a backseat as Gavaskar did something unexpected in the middle of the Test. The legendary batsmen staged a walkout with his batting partner Chetan Chauhan after he was wrongly given out leg before to a Dennis Lillee delivery. The usually cool Sunny, as he is known in the cricketing circles, lost his composure over the decision and left the pitch in anger with Chauhan in tow. Later on, the situation was brought under control by team manager Shahid Durrani, who first stopped Chauhan from leaving the ground and then asked Dilip Vengsarkar to come out to bat. The match continued and India finally won as well but Sunny’s revolt simply refuses to leave the memory.
Abhinav’s Gold at the 2008 games
India won Gold in the team events at the Olympics but in individual events there was none. Independent India was bereft of the yellow metal for more than five decades. But it eventually happened in 2008, after Abhinav Bindra secured Gold in the Shooting category and became the first one to win Gold in an individual category. Though Neeraj Chopra became the first from track and field to secure Gold in the ’20 Tokyo Olympics, Abhinav was the first entrant to the hall of fame. Hence, his achievement will always be a special moment to cherish forever.
There have been several other instances that are worthy of being featured in the category of striking or special. However, due to space and time constraints, only a few moments have been captured. So, this listing is not an exercise in exclusivity.