A nation of one billion may not have produced an individual Olympic champion as yet... but here is a list of our 60 greatest sporting icons since Independence:
Track and field
Milkha Singh: bettered the then Olympic 400m record at the 1960 Rome Olympics but fell short of a medal by just 0.01 seconds.
GS Randhawa: national champion in javelin, high jump, long jump, decathlon and hurdles; finished fifth in the 110m hurdles at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
PT Usha: the Payyoli Express lost out on a bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by one hundredth of a second; won four golds and a silver at the 1986 Asiad, still a continental record.
TC Yohannan: the long jumper's leap of 8.07m at the 1974 Tehran Asian Games was a continental record, and an Indian record for 30 years, till bettered by Amritpal Singh in 2004.
Anju Bobby George: did the unexpected by winning a long jump bronze at the 2003 Paris World Championships with a leap of 6.70; won silver at the World Athletics Finals.
Viswanathan Anand: became the first Indian Grandmaster in 1988; first Indian to win both the world chess and rapidfire chess titles; one of only four players to reach 2800 ELO points; became world No 1 in April 2007.
Ramanathan Krishnan: first Asian ever to win junior Wimbledon in 1954; made it to the men’s Wimbledon semifinals in 1960 & ’61; helped India reach the 1966 Davis Cup final.
Ramesh Krishnan: won back-to-back junior French Open and Wimbledon titles in 1979; reached US Open quarters in 1981 & ’87.
Leander Paes: won junior Wimbledon and US Open; won independent India’s second individual Olympic medal, a bronze at Atlanta in 1996; won Wimbledon doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi in 1999.
Mahesh Bhupathi: first Indian to win a Grand Slam (1997 French Open mixed doubles with Rika Hiraki of Japan); winner of 10 Grand Slams in doubles and mixed doubles.
Vijay Amritraj: reached last 8 at Wimbledon and the US Open, winning 16 titles in all.
Sania Mirza: first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam at the Australian Open and fourth round of the
US Open, both in 2005.
first ever in the world to cross the seven seas; first Indian to cross the English Channel, in 1958.
first woman to conquer the seven seas in 2004 and the first Asian woman to cross the English Channel twice.
won silver in 200m butterfly at the 1986 Seoul Asiad, only Indian to ever win a continental medal in the sport.
Dhyan Chand: synonymous with fitness, skill and sporting excellence; won three Olympic golds (1928, '32 and '36).
Roop Singh: Dhyan Chand's brother, won Olympic golds in 1932 and 1936.
Balbir Singh Sr: One of the best ever strikers, won three Olympic golds (1948, '52 and '56).
Ajitpal Singh: thrice-Olympian (1968, '72 and '76) and captain of 1975 World Cup winning side.
Dhanraj Pillay: only Indian to play in 4 Olympics, 4 World Cups, 4 Asian Games and 4 Asia Cups, winning gold at the 1998 Asian Games and 2003 Asia Cup.
Chuni Goswami: won the 1962 Asian Games gold and runner-up at the 1964 Asia Cup.
PK Banerjee: scored the opener for India in the 1962 Asian Games final; captain at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Sahu Mewalal is the only other Indian to score a goal in the Asian Games.
Bhaichung Bhutia: the most recognisable Indian footballer, first Indian to play professionally in England (for FC Bury).
Jarnail Singh: scored the winner for the 1962 Asiad gold winning team; led the Asian All-Stars team in 1966.
N Karthikeyan: first Indian Formula One racer; pioneer in motorsports in the country.
first Indian Test captain; led the side against England in 1932.
Played just 10 Tests over 20 years but has a first-class average of 71.64, second only to Don Bradman.
led India to its first-ever Test win against England, at Chennai in 1952.
holds the world record first-wicket stand in Tests with Pankaj Roy (413 runs against New Zealand in 1956); only player to bat at all 11 positions.
India's highest wicket-taker in Tests; only second bowler in Tests to take all ten wickets in an innings (against Pakistan at Delhi, 1999).
has maximum double tons for India in Tests (5).
guided India to their first-ever Test victory in England; took 242 wickets in 58 Tests between 1964 & 1979.
outspoken captain; has 1650 first-class wickets and 266 Test wickets.
captain of the 1983 World Cup-winning side; first-ever genuine Indian fast bowler and all-rounder; scored 175* against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup.
first batsman to score 10,000 Test runs; the original Indian 'Wall'; successful commentator.
youngest Indian to make international debut at 16; has scored most centuries in both Tests and ODIs (37 and 41 respectively); has over 25,000 international runs.
scored a century on debut at Lord's; one of the best-ever and India's most-successful captain.
first woman cricketer to score a double century in Tests (214 against England at Taunton in 2002).
Karnam Malleswari: India's lone woman individual Olympic medallist, winning bronze at Sydney in 2000.
Hawa Singh: won two back-to-back golds in Asian Games, (1966 and 1970); awarded the Arjuna in 1966 and the Dronacharya in 1999.
Dingko Singh: won lightweight boxing gold at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games; vanished after the 2002 Busan Asiad.
Gurcharan Singh: won bronze at the 1988 Asiad and reached the quarterfinals of the Sydney Olympics (2000).
MC Mary Kom: undisputed world champion; has won two world titles and one silver; Arjuna awardee.
Prakash Padukone: became the world No 1 in 1980, winning the Swedish Open, Danish Open and the All-England Open titles;
nine-time national champion; only shuttler to win both junior and senior national titles in the same year.
Pullela Gopichand: reached a career-high of world No 6 in 2000; became only the second Indian to win the All-England Open in 2001.
Limba Ram: first Indian archer to success on world stage; won gold with a world record score at the 1992 Asian championships; missed bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics by 1 point.
Jayanta Talukdar: first Indian archer to become world No 1 (2006). With Dola Banerjee (World Cup gold in 2007) put Indian archery on the world map.
became the first individual world champion of independent India, winning the amateur billiards crown in 1958 and 1962.
has won eight world titles — five professional and three IBSF; featured in the Guinness Book for becoming the first amateur to compile a maximum of 147 breaks in snooker; holds the record for the highest break, 1276, in billiards, set in 1992.
only second cueist in the world to win the IBSF World Championship in both billiards and snooker; won the national, Asian and world billiards crown in 2005; scored a double by winning both the points and time format at the World Championship in Malta.
won the world billiards crown in 1977 and 1978.
KD Jadhav: independent India's first individual Olympic medallist, winning bronze at the 1952 Helsinki Games.
Jimmy George: became the first Indian spiker to play for a professional club in Europe; counted as one of the world's 10 best players ever; died in a car accident in Italy in 1987.
Karni Singh: won silver at the 1962 Cairo World championships; 17 times national trap and skeet champion; first shooter to get the Arjuna in 1961.
Abhinav Bindra: first Indian shooter to win a World Championship gold (Zagreb in 2006) in 10m rifle; awarded the Khel Ratna in 2002.
RVS Rathore: won India's first-ever individual Olympic silver in double trap at Athens in 2004; won gold at the Cairo World Cup in 2006; awarded the Arjuna in 2004 and the Khel Ratna in 2005.
Manavjit Sandhu: won trap gold at the 2006 World Championships in Zagreb; won gold at the Asian Clay Pigeon Championships at Singapore in 2006.
Jaspal Rana: won centrefire pistol gold at the 1994 Milan World Shooting Championships (junior) with a world record score; won gold at the Hiroshima Asian Games the same year; won a hat-trick of gold at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
Jeev Milkha Singh: first Indian to qualify for the European Tour; first to play in the US Open; first Indian to win an event in Europe (Volvo Masters in Spain in 2006), collecting the biggest cheque ever by an Indian; first Indian golfer to reach top-50 in the world.
Arjun Atwal: first Indian to win an event on the European Tour (2002 Singapore Masters); first Indian to get a full card for the USPGA in 2004.