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Sunday, July 22, 2018

2016 – A year of sporting surprises galore

Sport doesn’t always go by the script. This year turned many sporting truths inside out. Here’s looking at the best.

By: Express News Service | Updated: December 30, 2016 8:12:55 am
sports, 2016, sports 2016 lookback, major sport events 2016, sports news 2016, sports 2016 highlights, 2016 sports, 2016 sports news The Mongolian wrestling coaches, with honey-comb guts and teddy bear chests, stripped to their briefs to protest the referee’s decision. It was surprising, shocking, heartbreaking and amusing … an undefineable mixed emotion that visited most minds throughout the year. (Photo: Reuters )

You can never please the fans: Gary Linekar keeps his word, hosts ‘Match of the Day’ in ‘undies’ after his old club Leicester City’s title win. Trolls say, they were shortchanged. #BoxersAren’tUndies trends.

Rainbow now has black too: Finally apartheid ends. Temba Bavuma becomes first black African specialist batsman. It’s taken long for South Africa’s batting line-up, cricket’s pampered and elitish top order, to get a rainbow hue.

Scratch the surface: We do live in the post-truth era. India gets excited about Pranav Dhanawade’s 1,009 from 327 balls. The rider that mostly went unread: 30 yard boundary, 10-year-old pacers, 25 chances.

Mid-career crisis: And you thought Manish Pandey had made it. In January 2016, he scores 104 in 81 balls as India chase down 330 at SCG. Soon it will be January 2017. Pandey still gets chance when stars rest.

Sporting rebirth: If you fail as Raju Sharma in India, you can succeed as Raju Rijal in Nepal. Mystery of how within a span of 10 years, an under-15 Mumbai junior player emerged as a under-19 Nepal captain.

Negi demonetised: Never trust IPL valuations. How Pawan Negi’s Rs 8.5 crore cookie crumbled? Mostly on bench during the IPL season, not in Delhi’s Ranji probables and, now in December, released by Delhi Daredevils.

Role reversal: The Ferris wheel went around a circle earlier this year, as Australian journalist Samuel Ferris tried nudging India ODI skipper MS Dhoni on the touchy retirement question. Dhoni called the scribe to sit next to him and asked “Do you think I can survive till the 2019 World Cup?” “You should, yes, sure,” the scribe was forced to concede. What goes up, and all that.

Defeat to die for: If you thought bad defeats don’t hurt coaches, think again. It even turns some towards potential suicide. Makhaya Ntini revealed to have looked for a tomato tree to hang himself after Zimbabwe’s umpteenth collapse with the bat against India.

Final frontier conquered: You don’t need the right tech for India to warm up to DRS. You need a captain and coach with the right take on the Decision Review System (DRS) which BCCI snubbed for eight seasons. Fortune favoured the brave as Virat Kohli-Anil Kumble’s India won 4-0.

Trouble at the top: Openers were a ‘happy headache’ for Virat Kohli at the start of this year with many batsmen in form. It turned into an actual headache as they contrived to get injured by the end of the 2016. It got so bad that Kohli was forced to open with Parthiv Patel in Mohali while the selectors plucked out Gautam Gambhir from the cold. In all, India used five openers, and six different combinations in just 11 Tests. Not an open and shut case still.

No homely feeling: India went into the Mumbai Test against England for the first time without a single player who could call Wankhede home; the first such instance since 1933, when Bombay Gymkhana hosted India’s first-ever Test. No wonder you didn’t hear a commentator say ‘he knows it like the back of his hand’.

More added to the list: Throughout his career, Kiran More was made to regret the dropped catch of Graham Gooch at Lord’s in 1990. Reprieved on 36, he went on to make 333. Alastair Cook can nurse a regret of his own now: he spilled a difficult one of Karun Nair on 34, and the Indian struck a triple. He has company in Adil Rashid who twice dropped Virat Kohli, who went on to make hundreds of match-changing proportions.

Redemption for the royal: Once a figure of ridicule, Ravindra Jadeja silenced detractors in Tests, no less. Not only as a left-arm spinner spinning out England on a blameless pitch in Chennai, but also as a reliable lower-order batsman who batted in a restrained manner when needed. Sir-prise !!!

His best delivery: As if being ICC Cricketer of the Year and Test Cricketer of the Year wasn’t enough, Ravi Ashwin turned even more adorable becoming daddy to Daughter No 2. “I delivered carrom baby #2 on the 21st…” Ashwin’s better half Prithi tweeted.

Cricket gone to the dogs: England tried relentlessly to stop Pujara and Kohli’s onslaught at Vizag. But a pitch-invader was more successful than the visitors. The game was halted when the dog was chased away, only to see it return after a while. A mongrel more dogged than the Poms and their three lions. Move over 007s, our Vizag dog has 700 followers on Twitter.

Adding (financial) injury to insult: The Poms came here and literally paid for their defeats. The BCCI made the England team pay their own expenses under the pretext of a court ruling. Interest on the Kohinoor in instalments?

Lights, camera…pink: Not many expected the Ranji Trophy to get the much needed facelift this season. First, zonal system was scrapped. Then a shiny, pink ball and fully-lit up flood-lights suddenly gave Duleep the leap.
You can’t see me: Smog had its desolation moment in cricket. With visibility affected, Bengal-Gujarat and Hyderabad-Tripura — played in Delhi, split points. Bengal players had updated from monkey caps this winter to vogmasks.

Goose cooked: South Africa are known to trigger captaincy changes in England with Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss stepping down after home series defeats against the Proteas. India can lay claim to Alastair Cook’s head though.

Where’s the star: The great AB de Villiers couldn’t bat in Australia. 2016 must’ve been really rotten.

Reality check: By not playing the Ranji Trophy this term, Harbhajan Singh might have scripted a silent version of farewell to Tests. Ashwin now has Jayant Yadav for company.

Too spicy for everyone: Heard of too many cooks spoiling the broth? Well South Africa have kind of dissed that myth. They are yet to lose a Test when both Stephen Cook and Keshav Maharaj have played together.

South America is not South Asia: Months before Rio, India’s South Asian games tally: Gold: 188, Silver: 90 silver, Bronze: 30. Post-truth again.

Tonga’s topless man for all seasons: Pita Taufatofua, the Taekwondo athlete, walked carrying Tonga’s flag, topless, his ripping torso oiled at the Rio opening ceremony. He’s threatening to qualify for Pyeongchang’s Winter Olympics in two years’ time in cross-country skiing. He’ll need a few thermals there though.

All bases covered: Standing on the Olympic podium, under the US flag, wearing a hijab. Ibtihaj Muhammad, a Muslim girl from Maplewood, picked fencing since that would mean wearing the mask, glove, jacket, pants on sporting arena.

One for the upstart: Didn’t see it, Can’t believe it, sang Marc Antony. Neither did Puerto Ricans imagine it. But Monica Puig won Olympics gold in tennis singles. Strains of Ricky Martin’s Cup of Life rent the air, this time for his compatriot.

China is never too far away: It was PV Sindhu in yellow vs Carolina Marin in red that final’s day of women’s singles at Rio, the two hues being China’s predominant playing colours. Shockingly, no Chinese eventually made the podium.

Diving into matrimony: The Chinese decided to turn cute this Olympics. He Zi, moments after receiving a silver medal for 3m springboarding, was offered another piece of silverware. An engagement ring this time. Fellow diver and boyfriend Qin Kai went down on his knee to say the magical words. Zi’s ‘ji’ followed.

None of the above: India’s Entry List for 74kg Freestle Wrestling (Men’s): Option A: Narsingh Yadav; Option B: Sushil Kumar; Option C: Parveen Rana; Option D: No one. ANSWER: D for Duh. Don’t. Get. Us. Started. On. This. One.

Leap into history: Sachin didn’t know there was no R in Karma(r)kar two years ago when he first met Dipa, the Tripura gymnast. But everyone agreed there could be an extra U in Pro(u)dunova after India’s sensational 4th place finish in Vault.

Phelps schooled: Michael Phelps may have ended the year with a photo shoot that rivalled only the gold adorning the Reddy daughter at her wedding. But Joseph Schooling, literally an autograph-seeking school-boy when Phelps last visited his home Singapore, pipped the American to the 100m ‘fly gold.

Breaking down walls: Olympics was all about climbing podiums. Now it’s climbing walls. The webs sport weaves to welcome Spidermen.

Down Under: The Kookaburras had won everything in the lead-up to Rio, before the Dutch ditched them out in quarters. They failed to score against Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands. Come to think of it, India could’ve fancied its chances against Aussies, atoning all prior sins in the grand flowing Amazon.

Fashioning heartbreaks, German Hockey Style: India beaten with 3 seconds to go; Argentina denied win with a goal 8 seconds from time; and Kiwis stunned with 1 second remaining on the clock.

Rising to the occasion: They were boring. Didn’t win a game in 90 minutes. Finished third in their group. Don’t know if Portugal were good or others that bad at Euros. But then, Ronaldo now has what Messi doesn’t – a major international title. 2016’s settled the matter.

Having England on ice: Iceland’s dream run, surely, was over. But they had it in them to score a goal more than England in the Round of 16 of Euro 2016. It wound up with Roy Hodgson resigning as England coach.

Stay original: The ‘Viking Clap’ celebration looked good on Iceland. France trying to do an Iceland after their Euro semifinal win over Germany, though, drew a lot of criticism for their lack of creativity.

Friendly fire: Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis won the Australian Open, and then made a Grand Slam final at the French, but against each other in mixed doubles. Irony is the partnership would break before the Olympics, the only tournament they aren’t allowed to pair up together. Not with – nor without you.
Everyone loves a winner: World number 1. Wimbledon champ. And Olympic gold. Andy Murray’s ‘British’ identity looks safe by the end of 2016. Until he starts losing and becomes ‘Scottish’ again.

Rivalry for the ages: India’s next Davis Cup captain will be younger than the oldest active player. If there’s one thing we know about Leander Paes-Mahesh Bhupathi, it is that never put them in a year-ending list with finality. 20 years down the line, they’ll still be at it – whatever the ‘it’ is; love, hate, intrigue.

Show me the money: While the general public reeled under the government’s demonetisation drive, Mahesh Bhupathi’s International Premier Tennis League came and went without much fanfare and organisers of the Pro Wrestling League had to postpone the second edition due to cash crunch. Even Ranji Trophy teams struggled with daily allowances. Nothing la la about these Ligas.

On auto pilot: Its Team Principal and managing director is absconding and chairman and co-owner Subrata Roy is out of jail on parole. And yet, Force India left all off the track problems in their slipstream in their best year ever in Formula One. They notched up a fourth-place finish, ahead of Williams and the iconic McLaren.

A Lion in winter: Tiger has mellowed with age, injuries and lack of success. He was seen babysitting his teammates’ kids during the Ryder Cup, ensuring their families were having a good time while Team USA was conquering Europe. Who Wood’ve thunk!

Cubs become LIons: Chicago Cubs recorded a no-hitter (when a team is not able to record a single hit) on April 21. It sat nicely with their moniker Lovable Losers. Seven months later they ended a 108 year curse to be crowned World Series champions. America’s staple of fairytale wins.

Paving the way: In combat sports, UFC superstar Conor McGregor of Ireland showed his lightning-fast hands to match that motormouth. But the real story was Stipe Miocic of Cleveland. The Ohio native, a huge underdog, upset Fabricio Werdum in his den in Curitiba, Brazil, in a first-round knockout breaking the state’s longstanding sports curse. The Cavs followed in the NBA finals.

Rest in peace: Circa 2016 proved to be bad for sports revolutionaries. Muhammad Ali, Johan Cruyff, Arnold Palmer and our very own Amal Dutta were taken out.

And finally, again: L, E, I, C, E, S, T, E, R. When you think you can’t do it, think of these letters of the English alphabet. In that order. Happy New Year!

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