Breakthrough stars of 2020

Sportstar takes a look at some of the best performers across sports in the year gone by.

T. Natarajan
Getting the call up T. Natarajan has been one of the biggest talking points in cricket scene of 2020. After scalping 16 wickets for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League, the pacer from Salem travelled to Australia with the Indian team as a net bowler. But an injury to Navdeep Saini saw him making it to the One-Day International (ODI) squad as a backup and Natarajan went on to play the third ODI in Sydney, where he dismissed Marnus Labuschagne and Ashton Agar. Natarajan also featured in the three-match Twenty20 International series against Australia and scalped six wickets. He was also drafted into the Test squad as a replacement for Umesh Yadav, who was injured during the second Test in Melbourne. - Shayan Acharya Photo: Sportzpics/BCCI
1/5
Abdul Samad
A genuine all-rounder in the making From being just another rookie youngster from Jammu and Kashmir to becoming one of the most talked-about cricketers in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Abdul Samad had quite a year! After emerging as the top-scorer for Jammu and Kashmir in the Ranji Trophy with 592 runs, Samad broke into the IPL with Sunrisers Hyderabad. He was signed for Rs 20 lakh, which made him only the fourth cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir after Parvez Rasool, Manzoor Dar and Rasikh Salam to earn an IPL contract. A potential game-changer, Samad has the makings of a genuine all-rounder, and he scored 111 runs and scalped a wicket in the 2020 IPL season. - Shayan Acharya Photo: Sportzpics/BCCI
2/5
Iga Swiatek
Coming of age The 2018 Wimbledon junior champion, Iga Swiatek had a quiet transition to the senior tour. She broke into the top 100 in the world in 2019 at the age of 17 and made it to the fourth round of the French Open, losing to third seed and defending champion Simona Halep 6-1, 6-0. At the 2020 Australian Open, Swiatek again reached the fourth round, but the Polish player truly came of age at Roland-Garros. She defeated 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova in the first round and 2014 Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard in the third, hammered Halep 6-1, 6-2 in a fourth-round rematch from the previous year, and overcame Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the final — dropping just 28 games on the way to her first Grand Slam — and WTA — title. - Neil Rodricks Photo: Getty Images
3/5
Erling Haaland
Europe’s golden youngster Erling Haaland was one of the best signings of 2020, the centre-forward moving to the Bundesliga’s Borussia Dortmund from Austrian top-division champion RB Salzburg in January. The Norwegian went on to score 33 goals, the fourth-most in Europe’s top five leagues, and assisted five more in 32 appearances in his first year with his new club. Haaland also became the second teenager to score 10 or more goals in a single UEFA Champions League season during the 2019-20 edition. At the end of the year, the 20-year-old Haaland claimed the 2020 Golden Boy award as well. - Dominic Richard Photo: AP
4/5
Bukayo Saka
Injecting life into Arsenal One of the biggest positives for Arsenal — if not the biggest — during a turbulent 2020 was a teenage sensation coming of age to inject life into an inconsistent Gunners group. The year will be remembered for the emergence of midfielder Bukayo Saka. The 19-year-old Briton became a mainstay for Mikel Arteta’s side on the left side of the midfield three. Saka is determined, tenacious and relentless. His express speed down the left channel with pinpoint crossing skills led to numerous goals for his side. The youngster remains unfazed by the added responsibility of the No. 7 jersey and his passing accuracy and work rate bear testament to it. - Shivansh Gupta Photo: Getty Images
5/5