Unlike 2016, this was not an Olympic year but there were many individuals and teams that won accolades for the country in 2017; among solo performances, there was shuttler Kidambi Srikanth's historic four Superseries titles; PV Sindhu's ascendancy to No 2 in the women's rankings; the untiring Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami broke international cricket records; shooter Ankur Mittal delivered India several medals on his way to the No 1 rank in the double trap; Pankaj Advani extended his international titles count to 18; and eternal fighter MC Mary Kom returned to the boxing ring to reclaim the title of Asian champion.
On the team front, the men's and women's hockey teams won the Asia Cup; the women's cricket team reached the final of the ICC World Cup; the men's cricket team had its most successful year ever; and Sunil Chhetri's football unit marched on unbeaten all year while breaching the 100 mark in the FIFA rankings.
And then there were those brave hearted para-athletes who won medals at the prestigious World Para Athletics Championships.
Ahead of the event, here is a recap of some the major Indian sports success stories of 2017.
Building on the promise shown during his run to the quarter-finals of the men's singles at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Srikanth made large last year. So large, in fact, that he went where no Indian badminton player has gone before. He won four Superseries titles last year, the most by ever by an Indian, and moved to No 2 in the BWF men's singles rankings.
Srikanth's first title was the Indonesia Open, where he beat Japan's Kazumasa Sakai 21-11, 21-19, and a week later he vanquished the world and Olympic champion Chen Long in straight games 22-20, 21-16 to claim the Australia Open. Thus, he became the first Indian to win back-to-back Super Series titles. Later on, Srikanth became the second Indian after Prakash Padukone to win the Denmark Open and then created history by claiming the French Open.
In addition to these four Superseries wins, Srikanth reached the final of the Singapore Open where he lost to compatriot B Sai Praneeth which was the first instance of two Indian shuttlers reaching a Superseries final. He also reached the quarter-finals of the Badminton World Championships and was runner-up at the National Badminton Championships.
Sindhu's silver linings playlist
After claiming a breakthrough silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Sindhu lived up to her billing as the queen of Indian badminton last year by winning two Superseries titles, a silver medal at the Badminton World Championships and another at the BWF World Superseries Finals. Her first Superseries win came in April, when she beat Olympic champion Carolina Marin 21-19, 21-16 to win the India Open for the first time. Days later, she rose to a career-high No 2 in the BWF women's singles rankings.
After claiming a silver medal at the Badminton World Championships, only India's second ever, Sindhu went on to win her second Superseries in October when she became the first Indian to win the Korea Open. Her other title was the Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold. Other close finishes came in the final of the National Badminton Championship and the Hong Kong Superseries, where she was runner-up both times.
Amid a year of close calls and some disappointing results, the men's and women's hockey teams delivered plenty of joy to Indian sports fans by claiming the respective Asia Cup titles. The men's team, captained by the inspirational Manpreet Singh, marched into the final of the Asia Cup where they beat Malaysia 2-1 to secure the title after a decade. Not long after, Rani Rampal's team went unbeaten in the women's Asia Cup, which culminated in a thrilling 5-4 penalty shootout win over higher-ranked China in the final. With that sensational Asia Cup success, the women's team also qualified for the 2018 World Cup, which in the words of Rani and the mercurial goalkeeper Savita Punia, had been the entire squad's goal. The women's team remained unbeaten throughout the Asia Cup, scoring 28 goals while conceding just five.
Additionally, the men's team won bronze medals at the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneshwar and the Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy.
A record-breaking year
This was the most successful year for any Indian team ever, with 37 wins, surpassing the record of 31 set in 2016. Virat Kohli's team maintained the No 1 spot in the ICC Test Championship with series wins over Bangladesh, Australia and Sri Lanka (twice), reached the final of the Champions Trophy, won ODI series over England, West Indies, Sri Lanka (twice), Australia and New Zealand and T20I series over England, Sri Lanka (twice) and New Zealand.
The pillars of the team's success in Tests were Cheteshwar Pujara, the second-highest run-scorer last year with 1140; Kohli, with 1059 at an average of 75.64 and with four centuries; Ravindra Jadeja with 54 wickets in 10 matches, inclusive of a Man-of-the-Series award as India regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from Australia; and R Ashwin, with 56 wickets while becoming the fastest bowler ever to the 300-mark. In ODIs, Kohli was 2017's most successful batsman with 1460 runs in 26 innings and six centuries, while Rohit Sharma weighed in with 1293, inclusive of a breath-taking 208* in one innings; Jasprit Bumrah was India's leading bowler with 39 wickets, followed by Hardik Pandya with 31 and Bhuvneshwar Kumar with 28 wickets.
In T20Is, Kohli was India's top scorer with 299 runs, backed by Rohit Sharma with 283, which included a stunning joint-fastest T20I hundred, and KL Rahul with 279. But the biggest success for the team in the shortest format was the legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal who claimed 23 wickets, the most by any bowler last year.
Giving a massive facelift to women's cricket in the country was the team led by Mithali Raj, which reached the final of the ICC World Cup by beating England, West Indies, Pakistan Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia. Carrying the flag for Indian women's cricket were Mithali, who became the all-time leading run-scorer in women's ODIs and the first Indian cricketer, male or female, to score seven consecutive ODI fifties; Jhulan Goswami who surpassed Australian Cathryn Fitzpatrick's record of 180 to become the highest wicket-taker in women's ODIs; the fearless all-rounder Harmanpreet Kaur, who smashed her way to a career-best 171* off 115 balls in the World Cup semi-final, the second-highest score in ODIs for India and the highest in a World Cup knock-out; and young Deepti Sharma, who recorded the highest score by an Indian women cricket of 188 runs during a world record opening stand of 320 and who was India's leading wicket-taker at the World Cup.
An unbeaten season
Sunil Chhetri's football team went the entire year without a loss, finishing with seven wins and two draws while breaking into the top 100 of the FIFA rankings for the first time in more than two decades and sealing passage to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. The team's unbeaten run was shaped by Chhetri's six international goals, which included crucial shots at the death against Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan; the goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who made a string of impressive saves to relieve the pressure on the defenders and strikers; and Sandesh Jhingan and Balwant Singh's combined seven goals.
In a league of his own
Pankaj Advani increased his international title count to 18 by winning the IBSF World Billiards Championship and IBSF World Snooker Championship. First he beat England's Mike Russell 6-2 to win the World Billiards Championship and defend the 150-up title he had won in 2016, thus making it 17 world titles. A couple weeks later, claimed his 18th title by outclassing Iran's Amir Sarkhosh in the World Snooker Championship. In addition, Advani was bronze medallist in long-up format at the World Billiards Championship and beat compatriot Sourav Kothari 6-3 to win the Asian Billiards Championship, which was his seventh Asian title. At home, he won the Manisha National Billiards and Snooker Championship title and the Kolkata Open National Snooker Championship by beating two-time defending champion Aditya Mehta 5-1.
On His Mark
Ankur Mittal ended the year ranked No 1 in the world for men's double trap, having claimed two silver medals at ISSF events and a gold at the Commonwealth Shooting Championships. In March, Mittal won silver in the men's double trap at the ISSF World Cup in Delhi and gold in Shotgun category at the ISSF World in Acapulco, Mexico, where he beat the gold medalist from Delhi, Australia's James Willet. Near year end, he won gold at the Commonwealth Shooting Championships in Brisbane. His success also included a double trap gold at the 7th Asian Championship Shotgun in Astana, Kazakhstan and silver at the ISSF World Shotgun Championship in Moscow. Five Indian para-athletes won medals at the World Para Athletics Championships - Sundar Singh Gurjar, who clinched gold in the F46 javelin event with his personal best throw of 60.36m; Sharad Kumar, with silver in the men's T-42 category high jump while clearing a personal best height of 1.84m; 2016 Rio Paralympics medalist Varun Kumar Bhati bagged bronze in the men's T-42 category high jump with a best effort of 1.77m; Amit Kumar Saroha took home silver in the men's club throw F-51; and Karam Jyoti earned bronze in the women's discus throw F-55. Gurjar also won three gold medals at the Fazza IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai - in the javelin throw, shot put and discus throw.
(Source: The times Of India)