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The Ecstasy and the Agony

In a year that India reached the dizzying high of a World Cup cricket victory,it also crash-landed in a mortifying England tour.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: January 1, 2012 10:56:20 pm

In a year that India reached the dizzying high of a World Cup cricket victory,it also crash-landed in a mortifying England tour. Last year’s golden girls ended with a dope taint,and we spotted a new shooting star.

The Highs

The Six That Won It

In a dismal year of soaring prices and slow growth,cricket gave the country its dose of endorphins. Specifically,MS Dhoni’s heave over midwicket which sent the ball flying into the Vithal Divecha stand,Wankhede Stadium,and won India the World Cup. It was the greatest sporting moment of the year for India and came 28 years after Kapil Dev’s team of underdogs had their triumph. Dhoni’s 42-day campaign of glory had many firsts. Never had a home side won a cricket World Cup on home soil,not even the mighty Australians. Never had a total of over 250 been chased in the final of the event and never had a century-maker ended up on the losing side in a Cup-deciding tie. It all happened on April 2,as Mahela Jayawardene’s classy 100 was nullified by two 90s,Gautam Gambhir’s 97 and Dhoni’s unbeaten 91. But it was the six that took him into the 90s that will resonate in the Wankhede Stadium and around India,long after this year and many more pass us by.

Sehwag’s Double

For a period of just under 10 months this year,Virender Sehwag made no centuries. Then,on December 8,well into his three-figure drought,he scored one in just fours against the West Indies in Indore. He then went on to do what has been expected of him ever since he first walked out to bat as an opener in 2001: score a one-day double century. He became only the second batsman in international cricket to do so,and shattered the previous mark set by his idol Sachin Tendulkar with this sledgehammer of an innings. To put things in perspective,a decade ago,219 would have been a very competitive score in an ODI. The year was a typical Viru innings. He started the World Cup on fire,with his then highest one-day score of 175 in Dhaka; slowed things down in the middle,and finished with arguably the greatest one-day innings ever played.

Great Game in G Noida

If successfully hosting the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in 2010 was a sign of India’s economic muscle,bringing F1 to India in ’11 added a few inches to those triceps. “We need to say a big congratulations to the Indian people for their efforts in building the circuit. In the years to come,it is going to be one of the greats,” said McLaren’s Jenson Button. That was a big thank you to the 1,80,000 people,both speed enthusiasts and complete novices,who flooded the Buddh International Circuit over the race weekend. And those that partied away with Lady Gaga after the sizzle of burnt rubber had died down.

Shooting Star

With a relentless dedication to his art,Ronjan Singh Sodhi,double-trap shooter of great distinction,has been lighting up the Indian shooting medal gallery over the last year. He became the only person to win back-to-back World Cup golds in the history of the sport,and also the first and only Indian to reach the No.1 spot in the International Shooting Sport Federation World Rankings. Sodhi’s first World Cup medal came only in 2007,at Santo Domingo,Brazil,and he missed out on the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But having already booked his Olympic berth at the beginning of 2011,Sodhi ended the season with a high greater than World Cups and rankings — that of being the favourite to bring back the gold from London.

Upper Cut

Vikas Krishan,a 19-year old welterweighter from Bhiwani,the Haryana town that also yielded Vijender Singh,became only the second Indian medallist at the World Boxing Championship held in Baku,Azerbaijan,in October (he won the bronze). This was Krishan’s first in the new weight category,having made the double jump earlier this year from the lightweight division in which he won gold at the CWG. The performance also saw the young pugilist book his berth at the London Olympics,along with three other boxers from the country. He now has a medal from each tournament he has participated in,a fact that won’t be lost on him in seven months’ time.

The Lows

Saina Slips

2011 was a disappointment for Saina Nehwal,coming after a dazzling 2010 when she claimed a CWG gold,three Super Series titles and climbed to the No. 2 spot in world badminton rankings. What rescued it from being a disaster was making it to the final at the year-end BWF Super Series Masters in China,when she became the first Indian to do so. The strong run in the tournament also saw Saina partially redeem her lopsided record against top-ranked players. Maybe her return from ankle injury took longer than expected,or that she is cutting her teeth on a top-ten that appears exceptionally strong. But just one Grand Prix title for the year saw Saina slip to No. 4. Still,better 2011 than 2012,the year of the Olympics.

The England whitewash

Illusions of India using the assignment to justify their billing as the number one Test team ended very early on in the tour to England. Running from pillar to post,an injury-ravaged and under-prepared India lost its title and the series after a shellacking in the third Test at Birmingham where they went down by an innings and 242 runs — the country’s third worst-ever Test defeat. India did not cross 300 once in eight innings in the Test series and lost its first series under MS Dhoni,that too 4-0. Even in the limited overs leg of the tour,the visitors went down 3-0 in the ODIs and lost the only T20 match played. The sole poignant moment came when Rahul Dravid,the one player to come out of the Tests with any credit,played his last game in colours. India lost eight international fixtures in a row,and when they couldn’t defend 304 in the final ODI,the end couldn’t have come sooner.

Was no gold

“Nigeria starting to tire,here comes India,here comes Akkunji,just listen to the crowd”,roared the voice,as Ashwini Akkunji smoothed around the curb,putting India in the lead in the 4x400m relay at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. Tests and the verdict that came out in 2011 suggested that India’s first gold on the CWG tracks in 52 years drew from a little more than the pulse-pounding crowd support. Three of the four members of the relay team,that also went on to win gold at the Asian Games,tested positive for banned substances. They weren’t the only members on the roster of shame. Mandeep Kaur,Sini Jose and Akkunji were banned along with runners Jauna Murmu,Priyanka Panwar and Tiana Mary Thomas,walker Rani Yadav,long-jumper Harikrishanan Muraleedharan and shot-putter Sonia Kumari.

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