India’s tryst with sports in the 63 years of independence may not have been a golden road filled with accomplishments, but it has still given to the world names that have been written in golden letters in the history of sports because of their phenomenal dedication and extraordinary achievements.
Here are few of those sporting icons, who have risen above poverty, fought bureaucratic lethargy, navigated red tapism, survived the lack of sports related fund, and still managed to carve their names in the history of sports. Their individual accomplishments have made India proud, and these are the men and women who can inspire young Indians to fight for their dreams and make them a reality no matter what the odds.
As the list of individual sport stars is quite comprehensive, this is part one of the series about those sportspersons who have retired from the game at an international level.
Kapil Dev – It is difficult to choose one and ignore all when it comes to cricketers of India, but Kapil Dev is no doubt a name revered by masses and also the cricketing fraternity. He captained India to Cricket World Cup victory in 1983 and holds the record for the most Test match wickets between 1994 and 1999. More importantly he is a man with a golden heart. ‘Kapil Dev da jawaab nahi!’
Dhyan Chand – It is said, this legendry centre forward in the Indian hockey team was not always called Dhyan Chand. The title ‘chand’ was in fact given by his first coach Pankaj Singh who believed that this shy player will one day shine like the moon in the hockey world. And that he surely did, helping India clinch the Olympic gold in 1928 Amsterdam games, 1932 Los Angeles games and 1936 Berlin games. He remains till this day a figure of veneration.
Sardar Milkha Singh – Rising from modest means this man became the ‘flying sikh’ of India. His athletic feats inspired many to take up sports. He was Until 2000 Sydney Olympics the only Indian to have broken an Olympic record.
P.T. Usha – There was a time when every Indian took her name with pride and called her the queen of track and field games. P.T. Usha saw many ups and downs in her athletic career and despite the pitiable training conditions for athletes in our country, won 101 international medals. She continued competing even after marriage and a kid, breaking the age old taboo of a women player retiring after marriage.
Pullela Gopichand – He won the All England Open Badminton Championships in 2001 becoming the second Indian to do so after Prakash Padukone who is another legendry badminton player. Gopichand is now known more as the mentor of shuttler Saina Nehwal and his meticulous training skills has won him the Dronacharya award given to the best coaches of India.
Karnam Malleshwari – A women Indian weightlifter who was the first woman in India to win an Olympic Bronze, Malleshwari fought much criticism in her entire weight lifting career, but she proved her mettle nationally and internationally.
Michael Ferreira – Fondly called the Bombay Tiger, this man was the sole reason for making English Billiard so popular in the 1970s. He won his first World Amateur Billiards Champion title in 1977 and also three World Open Billiards Champion title. In 1978 he became the first amateur to break the barrier of 1,000 points, in the billiards national championships, and created a new amateur world record by scoring 1,149 points. He spends his time now in coaching future champions and helping others gain financial freedom through his organisation.
There are surely many other names from the past pages of India’s sporting history that have not been included in this list. And there is absolutely no doubt that there are many many great cricketers who can fill pages and pages of this site. While their contributions to the games are undeniable, the above mentioned list is an attempt to cover all major sports where India has truly shined.
If you wish to add a name to this list of players who have now retired from international level but are still remembered for the great feats they achieved, do leave your comment. Their achievements will surely inspire the future sports stars of India.
Also do not forget to check the current Sporting Legends of Independent India in the next post.