INDIA IN INTERNATIONAL
India as a nation
of vast human resources is yet to fulfill its potential in the
world of sports. The resurgence in the sports arena as manifested
in the past couple of decades is still far short of international
standards. The country’s objective in the long-term must be to
forge ahead with planned progress to attain eminence in world
India had a rich
tradition of supremacy in sports and games down the ages. The
epics and history recount the heroic deeds in archery, wrestling,
sword-fighting and other contests displayed by our legendary stalwarts.
But waves of invasions and long years of foreign domination decimated
this legacy of skill and prowess.
Even so, there
have been instances of India’s wrestlers like Gama and his brother
Imam Bux who had floored the champions of other lands. More recently,
Dara Singh, the world free-style champion, had the upper hand
over the fabulous King Kong and others.
and women have won laurels at the Asian and Commonwealth competitions.
But with the lone exception of hockey they have failed to attain
international standards at the Olympics and world meets. Even
the hockey crown has slipped out of India’s hands in recent years.
India cast its
spell of hockey supremacy over a period beyond three decades.
The sports-minded European and other nations subsequently caught
up with the Indian techniques. With partition Pakistan emerged
as a formidable rival in the sub-continent itself. Earlier, between
the Amsterdam Olympiad in 1928 and the Rome Games in 1960 India
had a monopolistic hold on the World’s hockey crown.
The name of the
‘Hockey Wizard’ Dhyan Chand is synonymous with the golden era
of India’s supremacy in the game. The legendary feats of the superstar
place him in the niche as the all-time brightest exponent of the
vigorous game. No one anywhere has equaled him as the world’s
foremost hockey centre-forward. He spearheaded the all-conquering
Indian hockey contingent from 1928 upto India’s historic triumph
at Berlin in 1936 when he mesmerized the audience with his magic
In cricket, similarly
before independence, the names of two all-time greats, C.K. Nayudu
and the redoubtable all-rounder Amar Singh lead the rest in the
game’s roll-call of honour. To the great "C.K." belongs
the distinction of having been India’s first captain at the country’s
baptism into Test cricket at Lord’s in 1932. His innings of 116
runs with 11 sixes against the MCC at Lahore in 1933 remained
a world record for over two decades. Nayudu was "Wisden’s
Cricketer of the Year" – 1933.
Amar Singh was
"a Kingpin" of Indian cricket in its infancy. "He
came off the pitch like the "crack of doom", said England’s
Wally Hammond. He was fearless hitter of the ball and a prolific
scorer. England’s media commented that Amar Singh was the best
pace bowler seen in England for some time.
and Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad, Mushtaq Ali and Lala Amarnath
were among the notable cricketers of the period. Amarnath was
India’s first centurion on Test debut. That was against Doug Jardine’s
formidable England team in 1934. Cricket has acquired mass popularity
in India as a spectator sport. This accounts for the stress on
India’s notable achievements in the game.
The year 1971
marked the turn of the tide for India with greater success in
international cricket. The year saw India’s twin triumphs against
the mighty West Indies and England in Tests played on their soil.
The period was notable for the unparalleled ascendancy of the
Indian spin quartet of E.S. Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrashekar, Bishan
Singh Bedi and S. Venkataraghavan.
India rose to
the position of cricket’s unofficial world champions by dint of
the victory against the hitherto invincible West Indies in the
final at Lord’s in 1983. This feat of "Kapil’s Devils"
was hailed as India’s biggest triumph. Kapil Dev with his record
of over 5000 runs and in sight of 440 wickets in Tests emerged
as the world’s best all-rounder. He was recently honoured as Wisden’s
"Indian" Cricketer of the century. India also had the
distinction of holding both the bowling and batting records in
Test Cricket. Kapil’s record of Test wickets and Sunil Gavaskar’s
34 Test hundreds were unexcelled for about 10 years. Kapil’s record
was later eclipsed by the Caribbean, Courtney Walsh’s haul of
– rated as the best contemporary batsmen, had already scored 31
Test hundreds. Sachin has compiled the maximum of over 11,540
runs in one-day-international.
After the World
Cup triumph in 1983, India also won the World Cup "Champions
of Champions" Trophy and The Benson and Hedges Championship
in Australia in 1985. The success of our cricketers in the Nat-West
Trophy competition in England against South Africa and Australia
in the ICC Champion Trophy in Colombo followed by the 2-0 Test
victory against the West Indies tourists are among the other recent
achievements of the Indian team. These have been clouded by defeat
at the hands of the New Zealand team during the just concluded
tour. There were however, a few redeeming features like the emergence
of the young Virender Sehwag as a dashing batting hero. He has
hit up hundreds both in Tests and in one-dayers against the best
game of Tennis is among the major sports at which Indians have
fared well enough to be in world class. Ramanathan Krishnan reached
the Wimbledon semi-finals twice. He and Vijay Amrithraj were world
class players. Both Krishnan and his son Ramesh had the distinction
of winning the Wimbledon Juniors titles. In recent years, Leander
Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi won two Grand Slam titles. Mahesh with
his partners from Japan, Russia and Belarus has won two Grand
Slam titles including the Wimbledon in the mixed doubles and the
men’s doubles at the US Open championship.
In the other
court game, Badminton, India so far had a record of only three
players in the highest international level. First, it was Nandu
Natekar in the 1950’s and 60’s. Natekar was the first Indian to
win a title abroad. He was the Men’s Singles Champion in the Selangor
International Tournament in Kuala Lumpur in 1956. Six years later
he and Meena Shaw annexed the Mixed Doubles title at Bangkok’s
King’s Cup International Tournament. He won the Men’s Singles
title at the Tournament the following year.
Then came Prakash
Padukone who won the Danish and Swedish Opens on the European
circuit in 1979 followed by success in winning the Master’s Tournament
title at the Royal Albert Hall in London. In 1980 – he became
the first Indian to accomplish the epic feat of winning The All-England
Championship beating King, the reigning champion for two years.
After a gap of two decades P. Gopichand became the Second Indian
to annex the All-England title.
In the top-of-the
table games of Billiards and Snooker, India has had a handful
of champions. Wilson Jones won the World Billiards Crown twice
in 1953 in Calcutta and eleven years later in Auckland. Michael
Ferreira regained the crown for India in 1977 and again after
six years. He also performed the ‘Double’ by winning both the
World Amateur and Professional titles. Geet Sethi followed in
the footsteps of Ferreira, while Arvind Savur and Yasin Merchant
have been at the top in Snooker.
At the Olympic
Games it has been a bleak blank for India all these years. It
was only the ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh among men and the ‘Sprint
Queen’ P.T. Usha and Shiny Wilson among women who had reached
World Class levels, but without winning any medals. The woman
weight lifter Karnam Malleshwari secured the solitary medal for
India at the Sydney Olympics, three years ago. She won the Bronze
– and hopefully was the precursor of more honours for the country
in the years to come!
A chronicle of
India’s sports excellence should also include the swimming feats
of Mihir Sen, a dauntless and most renowned long-distance swimmer.
He was the first in the world to swim the ‘seven seas’. Mihir
Sen undertook and completed six of these swimming feats, all in
a year in 1966! (PIB Features)