Sports have been cherished and worshipped in India since times immemorial, be it mythology or reality.
Everybody, right from Gods, to kings, their kingdoms, and their slaves always showed huge enthusiasm for sports during the mythological era. On the other hand, if one were to talk from a non-mythological perspective, then history bears witness to the kings who reigned over this heavenly land – even the Europeans who reigned over us – who have always shown great interest in sports and filled Indian blood with a passion for the outdoors.
No one remembers how sports reached our holy motherland but if you talk to someone about historic sporting moments which acted as turnings that generated the soul of Indian sports, you would be greeted by numerous outcomes. These pivoting moments mainly include winning laurels for the nation on the international stage for the first time.
If you sit back and start counting those first time laurels for India then you would certainly end up biting your nails and your hair would surely go white. May I remind you all, therefore, about those cherishing moments, which Indian citizens must never forget. Had they never taken place, the life of sports during our times would have been lost in the annals of time.
Summarizing those special pivoting events, here are the top five first-time laurels which changed Indian Sports, not only in terms of participation and enjoyment but national unity as well.
In chronological order they are:
The first person who gave Indians the proud moment of patriotism through the essence of sports was none other than Norman Gilbert Pritchard with his two silver medals in the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris in the 200 metres and 200 metres hurdles. Norman Pritchard was the first Indian to participate in Olympics as well as the first Asian to win an Olympic medal.
He came second in the 200 metres, behind Walter Tewksbury of the United States and second in the 200 metres hurdles behind the legendary Alvin Kraenzlein, also of the United States. Although British by origin, he spent his early life in Kolkata with his parents and brought laurels to different genres of sports which mainly included football and athletics. He also served as Secretary of the Indian Football Association from 1900 to 1902.
After Norman Pritchard had sown the seed of sport in Indians, the number of participants India sent to the Olympics began to soar. The first Indian contingent was sent to the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium where Mr. Phadeppa Dareppa Chaugule competed in the marathon. He ranked 19th with a timing of 2 Hours 50 Minutes 45.4 Seconds for a distance of 42.750 kilometres, thus becoming India’s first Olympic Marathon runner.
The 1928 Amsterdam Olympics saw India earn their first gold, where a scintillating performance by India’s hockey wizards being helped India taste her first ever Olympic gold medal. Field hockey has since become the gold bank for India, having won eight gold medals in total, with six in a row from Amsterdam to Melbourne, one silver in Rome and two bronzes in Mexico City and Munich.
The 1928 Indian Field Hockey team included Richard Allen, Dhyan Chand, Maurice Gateley, William Goodsir-Cullen, Leslie Hammond, Feroze Khan, George Marthins, Rex Norris, Broome Pinniger, Michael Rocque, Frederic Seaman, Ali Shaukat and Sayed Yusuf with Jaipal Singh leading the side.
With a sensational gold-winning performance in field hockey at the Olympics, India were yet to win an individual medal after Norman Pritchard’s silvers. After Indian independence in 1947, India began to compete in many individual sporting events, with wrestling finally bagging a bronze at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was the wrestler who thrilled the nation with his stamina in the men’s freestyle bantamweight category and won a bronze for India.
The 1952 Helsinki Olympics was only the second time (after 1900) when India were able to bag two medals along with the prestigious gold in field hockey.
Football rules the mind of Indians when it comes to catering to an audience, but has failed to deliver a remarkable performance on the international stage. In early times football was majorly concentrated in the eastern regions, namely West Bengal and the seven sister states and Goa in the west. Today it has spread all over the nation, and is characterised by good sporting facilities and huge spectatorship.
The craze for the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, La Liga BBVA, the Bundesliga and many more Western football events have generated the spirit of football in India. But few Indians can claim to command knowledge over the Indian National Football Team. Although Indian Football team is suffering, it was known to have world class players in the 1950s in the form of Samar Bannerjee, Neville D’Souza , P.K.Banerjee and K.C. Pal.
At the 1956 Melbourne Olympic,s they finished fourth. A feat regarded as one of finest achievements in Indian football. India first met hosts Australia, winning 4–2 with Neville D’Souza becoming the first Asian to score a hat trick at the Olympics, and also making India the first Asian team to reach the Olympic semi-finals. They lost 4–1 to Yugoslavia, and lost the third place play-off match 3–0 to Bulgaria.
Cricket is regarded a religion in India and its legends are worshipped as Gods.
It was in 1928 that the BCCI was founded in Calcutta with R.E.Grant Govan being its first president. India played its first Test match under the leadership of C.K.Nayudu against England in 1932, and her first One Day International match under the leadership of Ajit Wadekar against England in 1974.
Winning and losing is a part of the game, which blessed India with some of the greatest sportsmen of all time. Among them were those who made India win its first ever Cricket Prudential World Cup, by defeating the West Indies under the leadership of the all-time great, all-rounder Kapil Dev, bringing home laurels in the Indian hearts in the 1983 World Cup in England. That final is one that lives long in the memory of any Indian. Despite the collapse of the Indian team at 183, they showed guts and hunger – coupled with the awesome leadership of Kapil Dev – to achieve their dreams dreams, which will forever be embodied by that scintillating catch of Sir Vivian Richards by Kapil Dev and the lbw dismissal of Felix Dujon.
And of course, the lifting of the World Cup by Kapil Dev.