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India’s best sporting moments

Khaleej Times sums up the country's achievements in sports and athletics during 2015

By Sadiq Shaban

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Published: Mon 25 Jan 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 26 Jan 2016, 1:00 AM

Willow shines again
For India's sports stars the previous year was one of achievements and accolades. Cricket continued to grab national attention as India established its supremacy in the game once again in 2015. With its first Test series victory on Sri Lankan soil in 22 years, India's win over the hosts in the third and final cricket test came despite a century by the Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews. After setting a victory target of 386 runs, India managed to dismiss the Sri Lankans for 268 on a pitch which slowed down quite a bit to win the series 2-1. This was India's first overseas series victory in more than four years.
It was also the new captain Virat Kohli's first series win ever since he took over reins of the team from Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Soon after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) named Kohli Cricketer of the Year. The 27-year-old Kohli, not only helped India win a series in Sri Lanka after more than two decades but also made possible South Africa's first ever overseas series loss in almost a decade. As the only second batsman in the world to have scored 1,000 or more ODI runs for four consecutive calendar years, Kohli has the distinction of becoming the fastest batsman in the world to score 1,000 runs in T20s during 2015.
Knocking them out
Ace Indian boxer Vijender Singh became the first Indian boxer to register a hat-trick in pro-boxing. He held this feat in 2015 in the Manchester Arena, UK. The 30-year old registered his third straight win by defeating Bulgaria's Samet Hyuseinov to become the first Indian boxer to register three consecutive victories in professional boxing. Hyuseinov was knocked out in the second round of the match. Vijender's explosive note with three back-to-back knockout and technical knockout (TKO) victories has won him much praise.
Prior to that he registered a TKO win over Englishman Sony Whiting on his debut before defeating another British boxer Dean Gillen in the opening round of his second fight. In June 2015, Vijender Singh became a professional boxer by signing a multi-year agreement with Queensberry Promotions. The star pugilist is gearing up for his next professional contest scheduled on February 13, 2016 in Liverpool. 
Arjuna Awards 2015
Instituted in 1961, Arjuna Awards are among the highest honours given away annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, government of India, to recognise outstanding achievement in national sports. Arjuna awardees for 2015 are: 
P R Sreejesh (hockey), Dipa Karmakar (gymnastics), Jitu Rai (shooting), Sandeep Kumar (archery), Mandeep Jangra (boxing), Babita (wrestling), Bajrang (wrestling), Rohit Sharma (cricket), K Srikanth (badminton), Swarn Singh Virk (rowing), Satish Sivalingam (weightlifting), Yumnam Santhoi Devi (wushu), Sharath Gaekwad (para-sailing), M R Poovamma (athletics), Manjeet Chhillar (kabaddi), Abhilasha Mhatre (kabaddi), Anup Kumar Yama (rollerskating). 
Sticking around
For the last three decades subsequent teams of Indian Women's Hockey have attempted to but failed to secure an Olympics berth. The year 2015 changed that. India was able to qualify for the second time since independence for an Olympic spot in Women's hockey. The team sealed their berth for 2016 Rio Olympics on the National Sports Day - August 29. The day is also celebrated to mark the birthday of the late Dhyan Chand, a legendary Indian field hockey player.
Hailed as a historic achievement for the team since this is only the second time since India's independence that a woman's team has qualified for Olympics (first time being during 1980 Olympics). The other teams who have qualified for the Rio Olympics are US, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, China, Great Britain, Argentina, and South Korea.  
Ratcheting it up
Saina Nehwal, India's badminton champion became the first Indian woman shuttler to become World No.1 in 2015. She went on to fetch the highest price in the Premier Badminton League (PBL), a format similar to cricket's IPL. There are six teams in PBL: Awadhe Warriors, Bengaluru Top Guns, Chennai Smashers, Hyderabad Hunters, Delhi Acers, and Mumbai Rockets. The top gainer this year is leading men's shuttler, Kidambi Srikanth, who bagged $80,000. Although Saina, whose purse is $100,000, is faced with an injury her record in 2015 is everything to be proud of.
Hailed as a flag-bearer of India's badminton tradition, Saina is a Olympic bronze medallist apart from winning silver at both the World Championships and the All England Badminton Championship. She won the India Grand Prix Gold in Lucknow, beating reigning World Champion Carolina Marin in the final. Saina also came out tops in her lone Superseries title in March - India Open - by defeating former World Champion Ratchanok Intanon in the summit clash.
-sadiq@khaleejtimes.com


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