70 years of Indian sports
A list of the 70 most glorious moments in Independent India’s sporting history
1948: India win their first post-independence Olympic gold medal in hockey in London. Between 1928-80, India win eight gold medals in hockey.
1950: India gets invited to play the football World Cup—the closest the country has come to the world’s most popular sporting event. It did not participate because it could not fund the trip.
1950: Abdul Bari reaches the British Open squash final, losing to Egyptian Mahmoud Karim. However, it’s Bari’s relative Hashim Khan, who chose to stay back in Pakistan after partition, who creates a legacy of squash champions in that country.
1951: Independent India hosts its first major sporting event—the Asian Games in Delhi. Goan Lavy Pinto gets gold medals in 100m and 200m sprints while Sailen Manna inspires the football team to the top spot.
1952: K.D. Jadhav wins India’s first-ever individual Olympic medal—a bronze in freestyle bantamweight wrestling—at the Helsinki Games. These Games also had two Indian women participating for the first time—Nilima Ghose and Mary D’Souza.
1952: India win their fifth hockey gold medal at the Olympics, with Balbir Singh Sr as their brightest star.
1952: Tennis player Rita Davar finishes runner-up at junior Wimbledon.
1952: Gool Nasikwala wins women’s singles and doubles titles at the inaugural Asian Table Tennis Championships in Singapore.
1956: Neville D’Souza scores a hat-trick against Australia at the Melbourne Olympics. India finish fourth, their best result in football at the Olympics.
1958: Billiards player Wilson Jones becomes India’s first world champion in any sport.
1958: Mihir Sen becomes the first Indian to swim across the English Channel, from Dover to Calais.
1958: Lila Ram becomes the first Indian wrestler to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
1960: Ramanathan Krishnan reaches the semi-finals at Wimbledon, the best result for an Indian tennis player in Grand Slam singles.
1960: Milkha Singh misses winning a bronze medal by 0.1 seconds in the 400m sprint at the Rome Olympics.
1962: India win their second football gold medal at the Asian Games, beating South Korea 2-1 in the final at Jakarta. They won gold in 1951 as well.
1962: Padam Bahadur Mall is the first Indian boxer to win a gold medal at the Asian Games, in Jakarta. Hawa Singh (1966, 1970) and Dingko Singh (1998) are the other prominent winners before the Bhiwani revolution of the 2000s.
1971: Ajit Wadekar-led India beat host West Indies in a cricket Test series (1-0), with Sunil Gavaskar scoring 774 runs in his debut series. India win the second match of the five-Test series at Port of Spain, while the other matches are drawn.
1971: India beat hosts England by four wickets at the Oval and go on to win the three-match Test series 1-0—their first series win in England.
1975: India win the hockey World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, beating Pakistan 2-1. This remains the country’s only world title in the sport.
1980: India get their last Olympic gold medal in hockey, amid a depleted field.
1980: Prakash Padukone wins the All England Open Badminton Championships.
1983: Kapil Dev scores an unbeaten 175 against Zimbabwe, after coming in to bat at 17-5, to lead India to victory in a World Cup group match.
1983: Underdogs India win the 50-over cricket World Cup, beating West Indies in the final.
1985: India win the Benson and Hedges World Championship of cricket in Australia, proving that the 1983 World Cup win was not a fluke.
1985: Geet Sethi wins the IBSF World Amateur Billiards Championship, beating Bob Marshall.
1986: P.T. Usha wins five medals at the Asian Games in Seoul, four of them gold, to make up somewhat for missing a bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
1986: India win a bronze medal in volleyball at Seoul Asian Games, inspired by Jimmy George, who earlier becomes the first from the country to play professional volleyball in Europe (Italy).
1986: Khajan Singh Tokas wins a silver medal at the Seoul Asian Games in the men’s 200m butterfly, a rare success in swimming.
1987: India hosts the Reliance World Cup, the first time the event moves out of England, and highlights the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s organizational skills and ability to generate revenue.
1987: Sunil Gavaskar becomes the first to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket.
1987: Vijay Amritraj, 33, inspires India into the Davis Cup final, starting with an epic five-set win over a much younger and higher ranked player, Martin Jaite of Argentina, in the first round.
1988: Viswanathan Anand is India’s first chess Grandmaster. He became an International Master in 1985.
1990: India win the gold medal in men’s kabaddi at the Beijing Asian Games where the sport is introduced. India have won all the subsequent Asian Games golds.
1994: Kapil Dev beats Richard Hadlee’s record of most Test wickets. He finishes with 434.
1996: Leander Paes gets India’s second individual Olympic medal—a tennis bronze in Atlanta—after 44 years.
1997: Mahesh Bhupathi becomes the first Indian to win a Grand Slam title—the French Open mixed doubles with Rika Hiraki of Japan.
1998: Shiva Keshavan qualifies for the Winter Olympics in Nagano in the luge event. He has competed in every Olympics since.
1999: Anil Kumble takes all 10 wickets (for 74 runs) in an innings, against Pakistan in Delhi. The only other player to do so was England’s Jim Laker in 1956.
1999: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi win the French Open doubles. They play three Grand Slam finals that year, winning at Wimbledon as well.
1999: Bhaichung Bhutia is the second Indian ever to play professional football in Europe, for a second division club in England—Bury FC. He follows Mohammed Salim, who had a brief stint with Celtic FC in Scotland.
2000: The first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal, Karnam Malleswari gets a bronze in the 69kg category of weightlifting in Sydney.
2000: Viswanathan Anand wins the FIDE world chess title, the first of five title wins, beating Alexei Shirov of Spain in the final.
2001: P. Gopichand wins the All England Open Badminton Championships.
2001: Following on against Australia in the second Test (after having lost the first), V.V.S. Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180) pull India out of trouble at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata. India win the Test and subsequently the series.
2002: Koneru Humpy becomes the first female chess Grandmaster from India; at 15, she is the world’s youngest female GM.
2003: Anju Bobby George wins a bronze medal in long jump at the World Championships in Paris.
2004: Rajyavardhan Rathore is India’s first individual silver medallist at the Olympics—in the men’s double trap shooting event in Athens.
2004: Virender Sehwag becomes the first Indian batsman to score a triple century in Tests in Multan against Pakistan.
2004: India win a Test series for the first time in Pakistan.
2005: Narain Karthikeyan becomes the first Indian to drive in the Formula One, with team Jordan.
2005: Nineteen-year-old Pankaj Advani becomes the first player to win in both points and time formats in IBSF World Billiards Championship in Malta. He beats Devendra Joshi in the points format and Geet Sethi in the time format.
2005: Sania Mirza becomes the first Indian woman to win a WTA singles title by winning AP Tourism Hyderabad Open; overall, she goes on to win three doubles and three mixed doubles Grand Slam titles.
2007: Jeev Milkha Singh becomes the first Indian golfer to take part in a Masters tournament.
2007: India win the inaugural cricket World Twenty20 Championship under the captainship of M.S. Dhoni.
2008: Abhinav Bindra becomes the first Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal—in 10m rifle shooting in Beijing.
2008: Vijender Singh is the first Indian boxer to win a medal at the Olympics—a bronze in Beijing.
2008: The Board of Control for Cricket in India starts the Indian Premier League in the Twenty20 format. It soon becomes one of the world’s most valuable sporting properties.
2009: India win the Nehru Cup in football.
2010: Sachin Tendulkar scores the first-ever double century in a one-day international match, against South Africa in Gwalior.
2011: India win their second cricket World Cup, beating Sri Lanka in the final in Mumbai.
2011: India hosts its first-ever Formula One Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida.
2012: Mary Kom wins a bronze medal in women’s boxing—introduced for the first time—at the London Olympics. She has five World titles.
2012: Sushil Kumar becomes the only Indian to win two individual Olympic medals, with a silver in wrestling in London after his bronze in Beijing.
2012: Deepika Kumari wins her first World Cup individual recurve (archery) gold medal at Antalya, Turkey. The same year, she becomes world No. 1.
2012: Sachin Tendulkar becomes the first player to score 100 international centuries.
2015: Saina Nehwal becomes the first Indian woman world No. 1 in badminton after winning India Open BWF Super Series. She had won a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics.
2016: P.V. Sindhu wins a silver medal in badminton at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
2016: Sakshi Malik becomes the first Indian female wrestler to win an Olympic medal with a bronze in the 58kg wrestling at Rio.
2016: Dipa Karmakar, India’s first female gymnast at the Olympics, finishes fourth in the vault at Rio but captures a nation’s imagination.
2017: India reach the ICC Womens’ World Cup final, lose to England.
Photos: AFP, AP, Reuters, Getty, Alamy, Wikimedia Commons, Hindustan Times/Sanjay Dudhane, Prasar Bharti, Photo Division.
At 70, India has come a long way from the country the British exited in 1947, and which they believed (and hoped) would not survive in its then form. India has since evolved into a vibrant constitutional democracy and made rapid strides in several domains (although there is a lot of work still to be done). To mark the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, Mint is profiling 70 milestones across the years, and across domains—politics, business, entertainment and sport. Put together by Mint’s reporters and editors, these entirely subjective listings are far from comprehensive, as is only to be expected when one is dealing with the seven-decade-old post-independence history of a country as large and complex as India.
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