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Help Beyond cricket other sports also made their mark
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Indians love to keep records, and Indian cricketers, outsiders often scoff, love to play for records. Be that as it may, records came thick and fast from the willow of India's little big man, Sachin Tendulkar. He scored the first double-hundred in a limited-over match, and became the first man to complete 50 centuries in test cricket. Still, it was athletes in other disciplines, often from modest backgrounds, who hogged the limelight during the year.

Wrestler Sushil Kumar, as muscular as a fighter jet, won the world championship in Moscow and also the Commonwealth Games gold. Vijender Singh, the top pugilist in the world in his weight category, managed just a bronze in the Commonwealth Games, but bounced back to win a gold at the Guangzhou Asiad. Mary Kom, too, retained her World number-1 ranking, though her performance at Guangzhou was uninspiring. Saina Nehwal, who can get a break in films any day, ended the year as the second-ranked shuttler in the world. She became the first sportsperson outside cricket to charge over a crore of rupees for endorsing a brand. Names like Krishna Poonia, Jai Bhagwan and Geeta Devi became household names overnight.

Some athletes broke new ground. Swimmer Virdhawal Khade became the first Indian in over two decades to win a medal in the Asiad. Ashish Kumar, the young gymnast from Allahabad, won a medal in Delhi as well as Guangzhou. Sandhyarani Wangken even won a medal in wushu, a Chinese martial art, at Guangzhou. We finished second with 101 medals at Delhi, our richest haul ever at the Commonwealth Games, and won 61 at Guangzhou, again an all-time Asiad best. Haryana showed the way to the rest of the country - it fetched 38 of the 101 medals at Delhi.

No less nerve-racking was the off-field action. Delhi huffed and puffed, faced a lot of flak - from home as well as abroad - but delivered at the Commonwealth Games. Till a month before the event was to begin, the city was a shambles. Stadiums were not ready, the roofs leaked, ceilings collapsed, the Games Village was called a "breeding ground for mosquitoes" and till two weeks before the kick-off, it was not sure whether Delhi would be hosting the Games or not. An event which was supposed to project India as a rising power raised valid question marks over the nation's ability to hold an event of this magnitude. Incredible India almost became Unreliable India. It was only after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped in that the whole infrastructure began to fall in place.

The crackdown came immediately after the event. Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, public enemy number one and the butt of all jokes, faces inquiry into the multiple scams that came out of the games. Some officials have been arrested. (To make matters murkier, two of them alleged that criminals were sent inside the prison to eliminate them.) The role of politicians in running sports bodies and federations was questioned, though the answers are yet to be found. And, it's a different story that Kalmadi still remains the president of the Indian Olympic Association and a powerful man in Indian sports. Sports Minister M S Gill asking Satpal, the legendary wrestler and coach of Sushil Kumar, to get out of the frame for a photo shoot, too, will not be forgotten in a hurry.

And, perhaps for the first time, cricket cost a minister his job - a clear indication of the extent to which stakes have risen in the gentlemen's game. Shashi Tharoor, the junior foreign minister, had to resign his post after disgraced Indian Premier League Commissioner Lalit Modi tweeted about how the ownership of the Kochi franchise was murky and Tharoor's then girlfriend and now wife, Sunanda Pushkar, was gifted equity of Rs 70 crore. Modi, the man who made IPL one of the biggest sporting events in the world, couldn't escape the can of worms he had opened. The Board for Control of Cricket in India pounced on the issue and investigated his role in other franchises. Modi claimed he had nothing to hide and would welcome any investigation. He has since shifted base to London.

At 37, Tendulkar matured like vintage wine. At an age when you expect cricketers to hang their boots and put their feet up, the maestro gave bowlers the world over sleepless nights. In 13 tests he played till December, he aggregated 1,507 runs at an average of 82.11, and scored seven centuries, including two double centuries against Sri Lanka and Australia. His insatiable appetite for runs also saw breaking the 14,000-run barrier in test cricket. Virender Sehwag continued to decimate bowling attack after balling attack, Rahul Dravid stretched the patience of viewers but retained his position in the national side and Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh continued their lonely crusade with the ball.

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