Cricket: Our Cup of Joy - almost
Fans shared in various star marriages this year, while recurrent successes in cricket and hockey kept Indians happy.india Updated: Dec 31, 2003 13:24 IST
(Akshay Malik)The Indian cricket team truly came of age in 2003. Only the very brave or the very foolish would have given them a ghost of a chance after their dismal performance against New Zealand in an away tour just before the World Cup in South Africa in March.
Not only did the fighting Indians make it to the finals in Johannesburg, but they also did it in style. The team dropped just one match in the league stages and although the mighty Aussies soundly thrashed them in the final encounter, the very fact they had got so far was a big consolation.
There were gains galore from the tournament. Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar surpassed Javed Miandad's record as the highest all-time scorer in World Cups, amassing a total of 673 runs and winning player of the World Cup 2003 award. (He remains the top scorer in all World Cups with 1732 runs in 33 matches). The Indian pace attack also came alive, with the trio of Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra producing match-winning performances almost at will.
While Australia once again proved to be India's nemesis at the finals of the tri-nation TVS Cup in Kolkata in November 2003, Sourav's Boys in Blue have managed to deal a crushing blow just as the year is about to end. By coming from behind in Adelaide to win the Second Test match of their Australia tour, the Indians have stopped the mighty Aussie juggernaut in its own backyard. With captain Steve Waugh announcing his retirement from international cricket after the current tour, it's a defeat his men will take a long time to forget.
In a year dominated by the World Cup, India's other notable achievements included a joint title win with South Africa in the Tri-Nation Dhaka Cup in April 2003. During New Zealand's tour of India in October, both Tests ended in a draw.
Indian hockey: Sticking to the taskThere are new stars on India's sports firmament and no, they don't play cricket. Indian Hockey, once the mainstay of the country's international medal hopes, had slowly fallen into a morass from which there seemed no escape. But 2003 saw India's hockey team come into their own, aided by the infusion of dynamic young talent like Jugraj Singh, Gagan Ajit Singh and Dilip Tirkey.
The road to recovery began at the three-nation Australia Men's Challenge in June where the Indians got the better of both Pakistan and the host nation. The team then went on to defeat archrivals Pakistan again in Kuala Lumpur in September to lift the prestigious Asia Cup. This was followed by a victory at the first Afro Asian Games hockey final in Hyderabad in October.
However there was some bad news also with Jugraj missing the last two tournaments. The penalty corner specialist suffered grievous injuries in a road accident on September 2 this year and had to be content cheering on his teammates from the hospital bed. But his absence from the game may not be for long. According to Indian Hockey Federation President KPS Gill, Jugraj is sure to play at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
The resurgence of Indian Hockey was complete with Sahara Parivar stepping in as official sponsors, after a long drought of corporate spending in any sports except cricket. Sahara has in fact committed to support the team for the next eight years in succession.