Notable successes recorded

Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal with the Commonwealth Games gold medal.-PTI

Here’s a look at India’s exploits in squash, cue-sports, badminton and boxing. By N. Sudarshan.

For long, disciplines other than cricket have found it tough to gain attention. While one-off successes have always been celebrated, often it’s the bad administrative milieu that takes up a sizeable amount of newsprint. This year too there has been no dearth of controversies as the fiasco in Indian boxing tells us.

However, the continued successes in squash, cue-sports and badminton have proved that winning is no longer one-off. We take a close look.

Squash: It isn’t surprising that most Indians want squash to make it into the Olympics. After a handful of firsts that Indian squash had in 2014, it offers fertile ground for accolades in a medal starved nation.

The year gone by can be termed a precursor to that. India had its best-ever showing at both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games with a gold each. In fact, at the Incheon Asiad India won medals in each of the four categories — gold in men’s team, silver in women’s team, silver in men’s individual (Saurav Ghosal) and bronze in women’s individual (Dipika Pallikal).

Squash is a sport where the cream comes from the Commonwealth countries. In that vein, the gold medal-winning feat of Joshna Chinappa and Dipika was stupendous. The duo’s was also India’s first-ever medal in the competition. Among Joshna’s and Dipika’s scalps were the Malaysian pair of World No. 1 Nicol David and Loe Wee Wern and top seeds Jenny Duncalf and Laura Massaro from England.

Alongside Dipika’s, Joshna’s and Ghosal’s exploits, it was heart-warming to see Harinder Pal Sandhu grab some attention. The 25-year-old provided a perfect start to the gold medal-winning effort in Incheon by dismissing defending champion Mohd. Azlan Iskandar in the opening singles. He also won three PSA challenger events of the four held in India and capped off the year by claiming the senior National title.

P. V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal... Uber Cup distinction.-PTI

Now 2015 will be all about how each of them builds on the successes of 2014.

Cue-sports: “I have enjoyed my season and enjoyed some really good results. I don’t know if I will ever be able to repeat a year like this. It’s just been a phenomenal year for me. I have won so much and even if I lost the last one, you can’t win them all.”

This was Pankaj Advani after his defeat to 14-year-old sensation Yan Bingtao in the IBSF World snooker championships quarterfinals in Bangalore in November.

Advani has been the leading light in Indian cue sports for a while now and with a year as this, it no doubt marked a landmark year for the sport as well. He won four world titles and took his total count to 12 and also effortlessly switched between snooker and billiards and the longer and shorter formats of the two.

His crowning glory was perhaps at the World billiards championship in Leeds in October. After conquering Singapore's Peter Gilchrist in the final of the shorter format of the game, the 150-up billiards championship, a week later he made sure that he owned the time format trophy too.

This was the Advani’s third career double — the other two were in 2005 and 2008 — thus becoming the only player in the history of the sport to do so. Mike Russell won the double in 2010 and 2011.

The Advani legend has never been in question. But in 2014 it acquired a giant halo.

Pankaj Advani... a rewarding year.-K. MURALI KUMAR

Badminton: In recent times, Saina Nehwal has had to carry the expectations of the whole of India. If 2012 and 2013 saw a slight lessening of it with P. Kashyap and P. V. Sindhu showing promise, 2014 has presented them as stars on whom one can pin hope.

Some historic moments were scripted by P. V. Sindhu when she became the first Indian to win two back-to-back medals in the World badminton championships. She also won bronze medals at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Incheon Asian Games. A title at the Macau Open rounded off a splendid year for her.

Saina, at the start of the year, won the Australian Super Series. She then changed coaches, moving from P. Gopi Chand to train under Vimal Kumar. She tasted instant success when she became the first Indian woman to win the China Open Super Series Premier.

Not to be left behind, P. Kashyap won the individual gold at the Commonwealth Games and K. Srikanth snatched a great victory by beating five-time world champion and two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan at the 2014 China Open to become the first Indian to win a Super Series Premier men’s title.

Also during the year, Saina and Sindhu joined forces to win a team bronze at the Uber Cup, which was hosted by India for the first time. A women’s team bronze was won at the Asian Games making it India’s first since 1986. The women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa got the silver in Glasgow and R. M. V. Gurusaidutt a bronze in singles.

“Overall it is great for Indian badminton. It has been the best year for Indian badminton,” Gopi Chand told PTI. “The Uber Cup and Asian Games medals have been the first-ever and these are really big and shows team strength. We had three different champions and it is always good to see that.”

Boxing: A gold medal for Mary Kom at the Incheon Asian Games — the first gold for any Indian woman in boxing at the Asian Games — was the only highlight as troubles outside the boxing ring marred the sport. For more than two years the boxers haven’t had any meaningful practice as the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation was de-recognised by the AIBA, the sport’s international ruling body.

Boxing India, an interim ruling body, was recognised by the world body but curiously failed to get the Indian Olympic Association’s nod. The bad effect these problems have had on performances can be clearly seen by the below-average returns in both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.