Sportstar's all-time classics: From Bindra's golden moment to 'Aguerooo'

As the coronavirus pandemic forces a temporary halt on sporting events, Sportstar revisits classic matches across sports.

India's Abhinav Bindra poses with the gold medal on the podium after finishing top of the standings in the 10m air rifle final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics   -  GETTY IMAGES

If the lack of sporting action amid the global coronavirus outbreak has left a void in your day, wash your hands properly, disinfect your surroundings and open YouTube as I pick the classic sporting contests from the years gone by that are worth a rewatch.

 

Sri Lanka tour of India, 3rd ODI, Jaipur, October 31, 2005

A Class IV kid is bound to hate Monday tuitions after school. But that Monday was different. It was the day I first came to understand how a stylish, rusty mane became a rage among some of the boys living in my society.

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M.S. Dhoni launches one down the ground during his match-winning 183 against Sri Lanka   -  S. Subramanium

“Dhoni maarche (Dhoni’s hitting),” said my teacher’s father in the adjacent room. I, not much of a cricket fan then, had no inkling who Mahendra Singh Dhoni was, but was happy about the fact that the classes were temporarily suspended.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara, with a well-paced, unbeaten knock of 138, had steered Sri Lanka to 298 on a somewhat sluggish track. Set a stiff target, India lost Sachin Tendulkar early, and that had driven the stadium into a deathly silence.

Read: Lord's to Wankhede, the Dhoni way!

Dhoni walked in at No. 3 and the Lankans were not ready for what was to follow soon after. Dhoni toyed with Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan and Farveez Maharoof, dispatching them to all corners of the park.

Later in the innings, Dhoni suffered cramps after he slipped while attempting a cut shot. That, however, did not deter him and he went on to score his last 53 runs with the help of a runner. He even made sure he himself guided India home with a magnificent six over the midwicket fence, notching 183 not out off 145 balls, the highest score by a ’keeper in ODIs, a record which is still to be eclipsed.

 

Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, June 12, 2011

“Absolutely brilliant! I think we have been in every position of that race, but we finished where it mattered,” crackled the radio into life as McLaren’s Jenson Button, having taken the chequered flag, screamed in response: “What a race! What a race!”

The race began behind the safety car, owing to a torrential downpour and standing water on the track. As Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel established a lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Button rammed his vehicle into teammate Lewis Hamilton’s, which crashed into the pit wall. The Englishman pitted after a second safety car deployment to check for possible damage. With the rain subsiding, McLaren did away with the wet tyres. Soon, the heavens opened up and Button was forced to box again. After 26 laps, the race was suspended for two hours.

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McLaren Mercedes' Jenson Button celebrates on the podium after winning the 2011 F1 Canadian Grand Prix   -  AP

Button was involved in another collision post restart on lap 37, sending Alonso out of the race. Speeding behind the safety car earned Button a penalty and by the 40th lap, he emerged from the pit exit, last (21st) and more than 100 seconds behind leader Vettel. By now, all seemed to be over.

But the McLaren driver had other plans. Equipped with softer tyres now, Button zoomed past everyone, with a longish tussle for the second place with Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher. He overtook them both with five laps to go. With a podium place in sight, Button pushed harder over the remaining laps, forcing an error from Vettel in the last, to claim his first victory of the season.

 

10m air rifle final, Beijing Olympics, August 11, 2008

Shattered by his exit in the final of the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Abhinav Bindra was hell-bent on redemption, come August 2008.

Though a back injury halted his preparations for a year, he did not leave any stone unturned: from practising with a water pipe in place of a gun, to improve his balance and stability, to climbing a 40ft high pole in Germany to conquer his fears! He even indulged in neuro-feedback sessions with South African psychologist Tim Harkness, to see how his brain responds to different scores.

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India's Abhinav Bindra during the 10m air rifle final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics   -  REUTERS

The day of the event, however, was not without its own share of drama. Bindra’s coach Heinz Reinkemeier had hand-picked which sight combination will work best for him given the lighting and background. However, moments before the qualifications were scheduled to start, the bench on which Bindra was seated came crashing down. While the shooter was able to save his gun from falling, his sight cracked and he had to make do with what he called a ‘less-than-ideal’ one.

Pushing that to the back of his mind, he scored 596.0 to clear qualification. In the last series of the finals, he shot 10.8 to take his total score to 700.5 to finish ahead of Finland’s Henri Hakkinen (699.4) and China’s Zhu Qinan (699.7). The sight of the Indian flag being raised at the victory ceremony as the nation celebrated its first individual gold is worth rerunning.

Sunderland vs Manchester United and Manchester City vs Queen’s Park Rangers, English Premier League, May 13, 2012

“Aguerooooooooo,” Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler blasted on air. Manchester City had done it!

Before the simultaneous starts on the Premier League title-deciding night at the Stadium of Light and the Etihad, City stood one point clear of cross-town rival Manchester United.

Within 20 minutes at Sunderland, Wayne Rooney had slotted home sending the Red Devils into a frenzy. Advantage United.

But, 39 minutes into the game, City’s Pablo Zabaleta scored to put his side ahead in the title race and in the game against QPR.

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Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero (16) shoots from close range to net the 2011-12 Premier League title-clinching goal against Queen's Park Rangers   -  GETTY IMAGES

United jumped back into the lead in the title race, come the 48th minute, after QPR’s Djibril Cisse equalised. It had already started smelling a victory, the title seemingly 24 minutes away, after Jamie Mackie stunned City to hand QPR a 2-1 lead.

By the 90th minute, the City fans had started leaving, while United was already celebrating some 137 miles away.

After Edin Dzeko equalised in the injury time, Sergio Aguero, in the dying seconds of the match, found the net after collecting the ball from Mario Balotelli at the edge of the box, to unleash pandemonium at the Etihad, as City brought home its first title in 44 years.

 

(This is a part of a daily series where Sportstar's correspondents will pick their five favourite sporting moments worth revisiting. Reader contributions are welcome. Send in your picks to sportstar@thehindu.co.in)

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