Superstars 2014: sportspersons who’ll redefine rules of game
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Superstars 2014: sportspersons who’ll redefine rules of game

They bring in their A-game every time they go out to play. We pick out the sportspersons who will shock and awe us this year with their talent.

brunch Updated: Dec 31, 2013 12:05 IST
Aasheesh Sharma
Aasheesh Sharma
Hindustan Times

Every year is about the people (and things) that make it fabulous. And so, in our year-end issue, we always look forward to who’s going to make it big next year. We ask a jury of experts in our favourite fields – films, music, sports, technology – to suggest names of people and products that will hit the jackpot.

Some of the names we have recommended in the past – MS Dhoni, Sneha Khanwalkar, Amit Trivedi, Deepika Padukone – did very well for themselves, as predicted. With the last issue of 2013, we bring you a list of people – newer names who, our jury says (and we agree), are going to stand out in 2014.

We wish them all the luck, and we wish you, our readers, a very happy New Year! Take our advice and party hard – the rest will follow!

They bring in their A-game every time they go out to play. We pick out the sportspersons who will shock and awe us this year with their talent.

Baba Aparajith

The next Sir Jadeja

It was on the bouncy pitches of Australia, playing in the 2012 Under-19 Cricket World Cup, that Baba Aparajith realised the importance of playing on the back foot. Rated as the next all-rounder to watch out for, in the mould of Ravindra Jadeja, he was part of the squad led by Unmukt Chand that won the World Cup last year. Since then, Aparajith has added back-foot punches and cuts to his impressive repertoire of strokes.

Apart from his compact style of batting, Aparajith bowls decent off-spin and is a superb fielder. His catches, standing in the slips in the Under-19 World Cup, indicate that. In that discipline, the Tamil Nadu all-rounder might have taken a leaf out of Rahul Dravid’s book. Dravid, also known as ‘The Wall’ of Indian cricket, and a great fielder in the slips, is someone Aparajith grew up idolising.

Growing up in Chennai, this alumnus of St Bede’s Anglo Indian High School worked his way up the ranks, playing for Tamil Nadu at the Under-15 and Under-16 levels before making his debut in the Ranji Trophy in 2011-12.

Just 19, he apparently caught ‘Captain Cool’ Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s eye and was signed up to play for the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League. Aparajith is being hailed as a serious all-round talent. Mind it! Zol

The run machine

He doesn’t believe in reining in his instincts. Till now, the strategy appears to be working for Vijay Hari Zol, the left-hand batsman hailing from Jalna, a sleepy town in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district. Zol first caught the eye of cricket aficionados during a Cooch Behar Trophy match in 2011. Then, at the age of 17, he hit an explosive 451 off just 467 deliveries for the Maharashtra Under-19 team, against Assam.

An integral part of India’s Under-19 World Cup campaign in 2012 (he played in all the matches), Zol went on to replace captain Unmukt Chand and lead the team in a triangular series in Australia in July this year.

His style of play and the refusal to be fazed by the reputation of his rivals, even if playing overseas, appear to be traits he has inherited from Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni, two players who scripted unprecedented success stories on the back of sheer batting talent and a fire in the belly, despite their modest backgrounds. The appetite for big occasions and the hunger to succeed make this small-town boy special. He is ready for the big league. Kumar Dahiya

The wrestler

He is carrying the daanv-pech legacy forward. The protégé of Guru Satpal Singh, who has been mentoring him since the age of 11 and the understudy of Olympic medallists Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, Dahiya, 20, is renowned for his agility and sharp wrestling brain.

The son of a milk vendor who grew up in the village of Nahri in Haryana, Dahiya has consistently performed on diverse platforms: He has won the Asian Junior Championships, represented India at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and displayed his mettle at the London Olympics last year. But the icing on the cake came with a silver medal at this year’s World Championships.

With the international wrestling federation re-jigging weight categories, Dahiya will now have to compete in the 57-kg division. The next year should give him a number of opportunities to display his class at the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea, and the Commonwealth Games to be held in Glasgow, Scotland. Will Indian wrestling’s next big star strike gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016? Don’t bet against it.

Judge-speak: Sportspersons to watch out for

Ayaz Memon

Senior journalist, author and commentator
Harsha Bhogle

Senior cricket commentator
Charu Sharma
Anchor, commentator, sports management professional

Pradeep Magazine
Senior sports journalist and Advisor, Sports, Hindustan Times
Vijay Zol: He displayed his appetite for big scores as a 17-year-old batsman. But he is not a finished product yet and has a long way to go.

Still, Zol has shown that he has the promise and the hunger to perform on the highest stage.

Baba Aparajith: He is one of the most exciting young all-rounders in the country. Aparajith made his mark at the Under-19 stage and his transition to first class cricket was seamless. He is a bright prospect for the future.

Amit Kumar Dahiya: Wrestling has always been India’s strength. By rising to the expectations pinned on him at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and the London Olympics in 2012, Dahiya has proved that he is not a one-time wonder.

He has the right lineage in learning from seniors like Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt at Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium, and now has to prove that he belongs up there with the big boys of Indian wrestling.
Vijay Zol: I like the fact that this batsman likes to take on attacks.

Baba Aparajith Everyone on the cricket circuit in India is talking highly of Baba Aparajith.

What you look for is someone who strings together scores and doesn’t fail for four innings after one brilliant knock.

Aparajith, a good all-rounder, does that. I am also excited about the fact that he bowls decent off-spin.
Vijay Zol: Not a typical T20 batsman, he is steady and dependable. He has blossomed early, but ultimately his longevity in the sport will depend on how solid his defence is. Zol can learn some lessons from his idol, opening batsman Virender Sehwag.

Baba Aparajith: To my mind he is a much better batting all-rounder than Ravindra Jadeja, the flavour of the year. And his bowling is a bonus. If he understands his role in the team clearly, he can lend tremendous balance to the Indian cricket team.

Amit Kumar Dahiya: The wrestler’s greatest asset is his speed and agility. In case his weight category changes, moving up to a heavier category and doing well might be tough for Dahiya.
Vijay Zol: Probably the most outstanding young batting talent in the country today.

Baba Aparajith: Making the cut from Under-19 to the senior grade is tough, but Aparajith, an all-rounder, has done it easily.

Amit Kumar Dahiya: A bright prospect, India is hoping for a medal from this wrestler at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

From HT Brunch, December 31

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First Published: Dec 30, 2013 16:32 IST