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Who are the movers and shakers of Indian sports? Compiling a list of the 50 most influential sports personalities in India is a task that is as difficult as it is divisive. Which is why Sportskeeda left it to the experts to decide.
The sports personalities in the country were evaluated on the basis of the following two parameters:
1. Inspiration - Popular sports figures who have brought their sport closer to the masses and inspired renewed interest in it.
2. Power - Individuals with authority who have used their power to further the cause of Indian sports.
After a panel full of industry experts voted for the sports personalities in the country which, in their opinion, fulfilled the above two criteria, the final list of 50 was arrived at.
Disclaimer: The list only takes into account living individuals who are currently making a difference to Indian sports.
Inspiration rank: 2
Power rank: 1
Captain Cool MS Dhoni is possibly among the top 5 most loved personalities in India. But that’s in addition to the incredible influence he wields: a word from him can make or break a cricketing career.
A name synonymous with the success of the Indian cricket team in recent years, MS Dhoni has achieved almost all that there is to achieve in India’s favourite sport. Hailing from Ranchi, a town not known for its cricket stars, Dhoni became a regular in the Indian side for his wicket-keeping ability and lower-order batting prowess. After being named India’s captain, he has taken the team to unprecedented success, winning the 2007 World T20, 2011 World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy, along with multiple other series wins. His individual batting performances, especially in close situations, have also garnered great praise from around the world, with the sport’s governing body ICC handing him the ODI Player of the Year award in 2008 and 2009. Dhoni has also led the Chennai Super Kings to two IPL trophies and a Champions League T20 victory, helping the side become one of the most consistent and profitable teams in the cash-rich tournament. His on-field success has translated to prosperity off it, as Forbes magazine listed Dhoni at 16th in the list of highest-earning sports personalities in the world in 2013. He also owns Mahi Racing, a team participating in the FIM World Supersport Championship.
Inspiration rank: 3
Power rank: 5
Considered as ‘God’ by a sizeable population of the country, Sachin Tendulkar’s immense batting records may never be broken. And the reverence that his unique combination of greatness and humility inspires among the masses will never be extinguished either.
Sachin Tendulkar is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest batsmen in the history of cricket, and has to his name the most runs scored by any individual in international cricket, along with a total of 100 international centuries. Tendulkar also has a World Cup triumph in 2011 in his bag, and Wisden, the publication commonly known as the ‘Bible of Cricket’, ranked him the second-greatest Test batsman of all time behind Bradman, as well as the second-greatest ODI batsman of all time behind Viv Richards. Tendulkar was named an honourary member of the Order of Australia in 2012, and was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2012.
Inspiration rank: 4
Power rank: 23
Bhaichung Bhutia is that rare breed of Indian sportsperson: a world-class footballer. Bhutia’s on-field exploits helped make football fashionable again in the country.
The flag-bearer of Indian football for decades, Bhaichung Bhutia single-handedly raised the awareness of the game during a time when India was predominantly a cricket-obsessed country. Possibly the only household name in Indian football, Bhutia became the second Indian footballer ever to play professionally in Europe when he signed for English club Bury, and played over 100 matches for the national team. He has been awarded the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri, and has founded the Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools in Delhi in 2010. His farewell game was contested between India and German giants Bayern Munich, a testament to his contribution to the game. Bhutia currently co-owns United Sikkim, a club participating in the I-League.
Inspiration rank: 6
Power rank: 16
Rahul Dravid is one of the most successful cricketers ever, but his resilience and fair play have helped him earn something more important: the title of the most respected cricketer in the entire world.
Reserved and resolute, both on the field and off it, ‘The Wall’ Rahul Dravid is considered one of the greatest batsmen to have ever played the game, and is the third-highest run-getter in Tests after Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. Always a team player, Dravid donned multiple roles in the Indian side, and after a profilic international career hung up his boots in 2012, ending his stint with the national team as one of the few players in world cricket to have scored more than 10,000 runs in both Tests and one-day internationals. Wisden ranked him the third-greatest Test batsman of all time after Don Bradman and Tendulkar, and in 2011, Dravid became the first non-Australian cricketer to address the Bradman Oration in Canberra.
Inspiration rank: 5
Power rank: 28
Olympic medallist MC Mary Kom has put women’s boxing on the map in India, and the tale of her achievements in the ring as a mother of two children is both heart-warming and motivating.
Ace boxer Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom is one of India’s most inspirational female figures, and was one of six medallists from the country in the 2012 London Olympics. A mother to two sons, Mary Kom did not let up in her pursuit of glory in a sport as physically demanding as boxing, and won five consecutive AIBA World Amateur Boxing Championships golds between 2002 and 2010. Her crowning glory came when she won the Olympics bronze medal the first time women’s boxing featured as an Olympic sport. Her success on the international stage opened more doors for her thereafter, and the 30-year-old now runs a boxing academy in Manipur. The Indian government has honoured her with the Arjuna Award in 2003, the Padma Shree in 2006 and the Padma Bhushan in 2013.
Inspiration rank: 1
Power rank: 40
The face of badminton in India, Saina Nehwal has earned one tremendous accolade after another in her still-developing career.
Arguably the biggest name in Indian sports outside cricket currently, Saina Nehwal has become the poster girl of Indian badminton following her exploits at the 2012 Olympic Games and her victories at several Super Series events. She became the first Indian to win a medal in badminton at the Olympics when she claimed the bronze in London; that performance following her gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Right from the start of her career Saina has displayed consistently strong performances, helping inspire a new generation of Indian youngsters swap cricket bats for badminton racquets. Still only 23 years old, the sky is the limit for the uber-talented Hyderabad-based girl.
Inspiration rank: 7
Power rank: 30
The only Indian to ever win an individual Olympic gold medal, shooter par excellence Abhinav Bindra is literally a man in a billion.
Abhinav Bindra won the 10 metre Air Rifle competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games to walk away with the first (and only) individual gold medal for the country. The Dehradun-born shooter’s medal was also India’s first gold in the Olympics since 1980. Moreover, Bindra is the first and only Indian to have held the World and Olympic titles at the same time. He has now become an influential member in India’s sports administration as well, being part of the sports committee of FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) since 2010. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2009, with that award following the Arjuna Award and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna he won in 2001.
Inspiration rank: 11
Power rank: 13
Anil Kumble could do just about anything on the cricket field: he could bowl bouncers with a spinner’s action, and could take wickets while bowling with a broken jaw!
While his nickname ‘Jumbo’ could refer to his large frame, it is also indicative of Anil Kumble’s contribution to Indian cricket over a career that has spanned multiple decades. The leg-spinner ended his career with 619 Test wickets and still remains the third-highest wicket-taker in the format behind Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne, as well as highest the wicket-taker for India in Test and ODI cricket. He is also one of only two men to have taken 10 wickets in a Test innings, scalping every wicket in the second innings of a match against Pakistan in 1999. Kumble is now the chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC)’s cricket committee, and also the Chief Mentor of the Mumbai Indians IPL franchise. He also held a position as chairman of the National Cricket Academy, and is the current head of the Karnataka State Cricket Association.
Inspiration rank: 19
Power rank: 10
World class player, and now world class coach: when it comes to badminton, Pullela Gopichand is the master of all trades.
From player to coach, Pullela Gopichand has donned many roles in Indian badminton, and is one of the biggest factors in India’s surge on the world scene in recent years. Gopichand won five National Badminton Championship titles in a row, along with claiming multiple honours around the world, including a bronze at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games. His single most important feat was a triumph at the 2001 All England Badminton Championships, when he defeated then world number one Peter Gade in the semi-finals before defeating Chen Hong of China in the finals. After a successful playing career, Gopichand moved to coaching, and now runs the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy, a facility that trains several Indian badminton players including Saina Nehwal, Parupalli Kashyap, PV Sindhu and Gurusai Datt. Gopichand remains one of only two Indians to have won the Arjuna Award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Dronacharya Award.
Inspiration rank: 8
Power rank: 29
The story of PT Usha’s heroics in track and field will be told for centuries to come; the Olympics bronze medal that she missed by a whisker in 1984 remains one of the most heart-breaking moments in the history of Indian sport.
One of the greatest athletes India has ever produced, PT Usha set the benchmark for Indian athletics with her performances on the international stage, and is still considered the country’s best ever female track athlete. The Payyoli Express, as she has been nicknamed, has 10 Asian Games medals to her tally, and she missed out on an Olympics bronze by 1/100th of a second in the 400 metres hurdles event at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. A recipient of the Arjuna Award and Padma Shri, PT Usha now coaches young Indian athletes at her athletics academy in Kerala.
Inspiration rank: 12
Power rank: 17
He may be the father of Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone, but ace shuttler Prakash Padukone had made a name for himself at the Mecca of world badminton much before anyone had ever heard of his daughter.
Hailed by many as the man who first helped popularise badminton in India, Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win the All England Badminton Championships in 1978, and he also claimed gold in the 1978 Commonwealth Games for the country. The Padma Shri winner later became the chairman of the Badminton Association of India as well as coach of the national team. Together with Geet Sethi, Padukone co-founded the Olympic Gold Quest, a company that promotes and sponsors sports and athletes in India. He also runs the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, the first-ever premier institute for the sport in India.
Inspiration rank: 15
Power rank: 14
Geet Sethi ruled billiards for nearly a decade; his excellence in the sport was almost single-handedly responsible for putting India on the global map of cue sports.
While India is a country not traditionally known to be strong at cue sports, Geet Sethi dispelled such notions in the 1990s and early 2000s, dominating billiards on his way to six professional-level World Championship titles. Sethi won gold at the 1998 Asian Games as well, and was honoured by the Indian government with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the Padma Shri and the Arjuna Award. Together with badminton legend Prakash Padukone, Sethi co-founded the Olympic Gold Quest, a company that promotes and sponsors sports and athletes in India.
Inspiration rank: 13
Power rank: 21
Kapil Dev would have been considered a legend based on just the 1983 World Cup win that he masterminded. But he went a step further and captured the world record for most Test wickets, earning immortality in the process.
Widely regarded as one of India’s greatest cricket captains, Kapil Dev enjoyed a tremendously successful career from the late 1970s to the early ’90s, and was the skipper of the side that lifted the World Cup for the first time in the country’s history, in 1983. A potent fast bowler and dangerous lower-order batsman, Dev is one of the few players in Test cricket to have scored 5000 runs and taken 400 wickets. His wickets tally of 434 was a world record at the time of his retirement, making him the first (and only) Indian to hold the record. Dev’s contributions to the game led to Wisden naming him the Indian Cricketer of the Century in 2002, and ICC honouring him with an induction to the Cricket Hall of Fame. In India, he has been bestowed with the Arjuna Award, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan. Dev was also one of the pioneers of the T20 revolution; he served as chairman of the executive board of the now-defunct Indian Cricket League.
Inspiration rank: 26
Power rank: 6
A high-profile businessman he may be, but Ratan Tata’s passion for sports, which is evident in the academies and training centres he has helped set up, has consistently illuminated the Indian sporting scene.
Ratan Tata, chairman of the conglomerate called the Tata Group, has been a keen supporter of Indian sports, and his company has been involved with Indian sports for decades now. The Tata Group runs the Tata Football Academy in Jamshedpur, a world-class facility which trains U-14 boys and takes care of all their needs. The group has also set up an archery academy and an athletics academy in Jamshedpur, as well as an adventure foundation. The latter is headed by Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest. The Tata Group owns the JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur, a 40,000-capacity arena with facilities for athletics, archery, boxing, basketball, volleyball, boxing, tennis and more. The likes of Leander Paes, Pullela Gopichand, and Sourav Ganguly have credited the Tata Group for the unflinching support it provided to them when they were aspiring athletes.
Inspiration rank: 9
Power rank: 35
With his stellar career shining as a lone beacon of hope for Indian athletics, Milkha Singh has given new meaning to the word ‘inspiration’ with his commitment to fitness and his drive towards excellence.
From a childhood that involved getting orphaned during India’s partition, to a successful career in athletics, Milkha Singh’s story is a riveting one. Considered by many experts as the best athlete the country has ever seen, Singh is still the only Indian male athlete to have won an individual athletics gold at the Commonwealth Games. His most famous moment came in the 400 metres event at the 1960 Olympics, when he missed out on a bronze medal by one-hundredth of a second; even so, his time on that day remained India’s national record for almost 40 years. His battles with hardships and his countless achievements on the track were all commemorated earlier this year on the silver screen, as a biopic called ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ was made on the life of the Flying Sikh. Singh also runs a charitable trust that helps needy sportspersons.
Inspiration rank: 10
Power rank: 31
The biggest name in Indian chess by a mile, world champion Viswanathan Anand has repeatedly upstaged his Russian counterparts to rule the board for more than half a decade.
India probably owes it to Viswanathan Anand for transforming chess from a hobby to a full-fledged career opportunity. Hailing from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, the first chess grandmaster from India started on his road to world domination in his teens; so much so, that he was awarded the Arjuna Award at the age of 16 and the Padma Shri at 18. Since then, Anand has won the World Chess Championship five times (2000, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012), and has also won the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan. He is the first and only sportsperson to ever win the latter award. He has been the undisputed world champion since 2007, and was also ranked world number one for a total duration of close to two years. While he still plays chess professionally, Anand is also on the Board of Directors at Olympic Gold Quest, a company that promotes and sponsors Indian sports. He also launched the MindChampions’ Academy in association with NIIT in Kolkata to promote chess in schools.
Inspiration rank: 14
Power rank: 32
The most decorated tennis player in India’s history, Leander Paes is a classic example of evergreen genius – even at the age of 40, his incredible hands and deft volleys can befuddle the best of opponents.
Records are aplenty in the bag of tennis veteran Leander Paes, who currently has to his name 14 Grand Slam titles and a further 45 ATP doubles titles. Paes was the only medallist for India at the 1996 Olympics, where he won bronze at the men’s singles event, and is now the only tennis player to have played at six different Olympic Games. He is also the second player in history to have won Wimbledon titles in three different decades. In 2010, Paes joined the Board of Directors of Olympic Gold Quest, a company that supports talented Indian athletes. Despite being 40 years old Paes is still going strong on the tour, having recently won the US Open with Radek Stepanek, and is one of the most revered doubles players in the sport’s history. Paes has also founded a management and marketing company called Leander Sport, which offers sports education services, infrastructure services, and media properties to its clients.
Inspiration rank: 20
Power rank: 18
The original ‘Little Master’, Sunil Gavaskar’s insatiable appetite for excellence was only rivalled by his fondness for the terrifying West Indian pace battery.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest opening batsmen in Test history, Sunil Gavaskar held the world records for most Test runs and most Test centuries at the time of his retirement. He had a particularly high average of 65.45 against the West Indies, who, during his career, possessed the most fearsome bowling attack in the world. Gavaskar was part of the Indian team that won the 1983 World Cup, and captained the country to victory in the 1985 World Championship of Cricket. Following his retirement, Gavaskar has become a popular cricket commentator, and has also served for brief periods as chairman of the ICC cricket committee and advisor to the Indian cricket team. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy, played between India and Australia, was co-instituted in his name. Gavaskar has started a sports marketing agency called Professional Management Group, and is also the co-owner of the Mumbai Masters franchise in the Indian Badminton League.
Inspiration rank: 43
Power rank: 2
Making commendable use of his considerable cash reserves, Mukesh Ambani has directed the efforts of the Reliance group towards the growth of various sports in India.
Currently India’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani has always been a supporter of Indian sports, and through his financial backing has helped a number of them grow in stature. Along with being the owner of Mumbai Indians, the current Indian Premier League champions, Ambani’s company has co-sponsored the Aircel Chennai Open, India’s only ATP-level tournament. In addition, Reliance have partnered with IMG and signed a 15-year contract with the All India Football Federation for the development of football in India, which includes organizing a franchise-style football tournament in the country. Basketball is on the radar as well, as a 30-year deal with the Basketball Federation of India has been put in place which will see the company help the development of the sport from the grassroots to the professional leagues.
Inspiration rank: 16
Power rank: 33
Dhanraj Pillay’s accomplishments in hockey earned him the ultimate compliment: he was said to have brought back memories of Indian hockey’s golden years.
Dhanraj Pillay was the biggest name in Indian hockey in the 1990s and early 2000s. He played a total of 339 international matches for India and scored around 170 goals to become one of the most feared forwards in world hockey during his prime. He also saw great success as captain of the Indian team – under his stewardship, the side won the 1998 Asian Games and the 2003 Asia Cup, and earned silver at the 2002 Asian Games. Pillay was a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 1999 and 2000, and was also awarded the Padma Shri in 2000.
Inspiration rank: 21
Power rank: 22
Possibly the only cricketer to inspire a level of devotion among his fans that can rival that of Rajnikanth, Sourav Ganguly’s list of accomplishments is often lost amidst the intense emotions that surround him wherever he goes.
Fondly called the ‘Prince of Kolkata’ and ‘Dada’, Sourav Ganguly was one of the most successful captains in the history of Indian cricket, and had an illustrious career that saw him become one of India’s most-loved players. Part of a spectacularly successful ODI opening combination alongside Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly is currently the 5th highest run-scorer in the history of one-day internationals, and was ranked 6th in the list of greatest limited-overs batsmen of all time by Wisden. He excelled in the longer form of the game too, and was the captain of the national side when India snapped Australia’s 16-game winning streak in 2001. A competitor and a fighter till the very end, Ganguly received his share of flak from time to time, but helped nurture the careers of many talented young players during his time as Indian skipper.
Inspiration rank: 23
Power rank: 19
Mahesh Bhupathi’s ultra-impressive record in doubles tennis has time and again captured the headlines, and his post-retirement plans promise to continue developing the sport in India.
One of India’s greatest tennis players of all time, Mahesh Bhupathi has been successful on the world stage for more than a decade now. He became the first Indian to win a Grand Slam title when he won the French Open mixed doubles crown in 1997 with Rika Hiraki. Now almost 40, Bhupathi is at the twilight of his career, but still remains one of the world’s best doubles players, with 12 Grand Slam titles and a further 48 ATP doubles trophies to his name. He also holds the longest winning streak in Davis Cup doubles, along with Leander Paes, with 23 consecutive wins to the duo’s name. Away from competitive tennis, Bhupathi has helped grow the sport in India, and runs the Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academy. His company Globosport manages a number of tennis players like Andy Murray and Somdev Devvarman. Bhupathi has also announced the launch of an international franchise-based tennis tournament called the International Premier Tennis League, which is due to start in 2014.
Inspiration rank: 34
Power rank: 11
Shahrukh Khan, the Baadshah of Bollywood, has set his sights upon ruling the sports world too – his team Kolkata Knight Riders is already among the most valuable teams in the IPL.
No one exemplifies the recent surge of the entertainment angle in Indian sports better than Shahrukh Khan. After portraying an Indian hockey coach in the acclaimed Bollywood film Chak De India in 2007, Khan bought the Kolkata franchise in the cash-rich Indian Premier League for $75 million. He has now shown an interest towards acquiring a football team in the newly-proposed IMG-Reliance franchise-based tournament. Shahrukh Khan’s massive fan following, along with his passion for sports, have considerably helped bridge the gap between entertainment and sports in the country. His possible forays into other Indian sports would only help grow them further.
Inspiration rank: 17
Power rank: 41
Growing out of the shadow of his legendary father, Jeev Milkha Singh has ensured, with his golfing achievements, that he is recognized as a world-class athlete in his own right.
Son of legendary Indian athlete Milkha Singh, Jeev Milkha Singh is a professional golfer who has claimed 20 professional tournament victories in his career, thereby making him the most successful Indian golfer of all time. In 1998, he became the first Indian to join the European Tour, after which he won four events, making him the most successful Indian on tour. Now 41 years old, he remains the highest-ranked Indian in the sport’s history, and also the first one to break into the world’s top 100, in 2006. Away from the sport, Singh has been awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian Government, and was twice the winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Inspiration rank: 40
Power rank: 7
A politician who actually turns his promises into action, former sports minister Ajay Maken has frequently raised his voice in opposition to the corrupt practices of Indian sports administrators.
An Indian politician and Member of Parliament, Ajay Maken was appointed the Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs after the 2010 Commonwealth Games debacle, and he served the post from May 2011 to October 2012. He tried to bring transparency and administrative reforms in Indian sports with the Sports Bill, but was later asked to redraft the bill after divergent views about it in the Union Cabinet.
Inspiration rank: 44
Power rank: 3
Subrata Roy has been a true ‘sahara’ for Indian sports; his Sahara group provides sponsorship assistance in abundance to cricket, hockey and Formula 1.
Subrata Roy is an Indian businessman, and the founder and chairman of the Sahara India Group. Besides being one of the most successful businessmen in India, Subrata Roy plays an active role in Indian sports through the medium of the Sahara group. Sahara is the major sponsor of Indian cricket and Indian hockey. Aside from this, Sahara holds a 42.5% stake in Formula One team Force India. Athletes from the disciplines of boxing, wrestling, archery, shooting and track & field have been extensively backed by the Sahara Group, while the company was the official partner to the Indian contingent for the 2004 Athens Olympics. The oldest football league in Asia, the Calcutta Football League, is sponsored by Sahara, and the company also organises the Sahara India Sports Awards, which recognises and honours excellence in Indian sports.
Inspiration rank: 18
Power rank: 44
Firmly entrenched in the top 10 of the world rankings, Gagan Narang is a part of the illustrious list of shooting champions from India.
Currently the 8th-ranked shooter in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle category, Gagan Narang is a successful Indian Olympian, with his bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics adding another feather in the cap of Indian sports. Having developed an interest in shooting at the tender age of six, Narang’s success on the international stage was only a matter of time. His years of hard work and perseverance paid off in the form of multiple Commonwealth Games and Asian Games medals, culminating with the bronze at the Olympics. He was bestowed with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2011. Narang has also set up the Gagan Narang Sports Promotion Foundation, which runs the shooting academy ‘Gun for Glory’ – a world-class facility that trains shooters from all over the world.
Inspiration rank: 41
Power rank: 9
The Mittal Champions Trust founded by business tycoon Lakshmi Mittal has achieved considerable success in identifying and grooming Indian athletes from various disciplines.
One of the wealthiest men in the world, Lakshmi Mittal has invested a significant portion of his fortune in the Mittal Champions Trust, an organisation which helps identify potential athletes in the disciplines of shooting, archery, wrestling, athletics and boxing. The Mittal Trust is ideally placed to help athletes understand and overcome their various obstacles – it helps the athletes obtain the right coaches and nutrition and get exposure at the national and international level. Some of the athletes supported by the Mittal Trust are: Chekrovolu Swuro (archery), Gurmeet Singh (athletics), Sumit Sangwan (boxing), Joydeep Karmakar (shooting) and Amit Kumar Dahiya (wrestling). The Mittals also co-own English football club Queens Park Rangers.
Inspiration rank: 27
Power rank: 25
Holding a legitimate claim to being the ‘voice of cricket’, Harsha Bhogle has won himself a legion of fans all over the world through his impeccable verbal skills and insightful views on the game.
Arguably the most popular and well-respected cricket commentator, journalist, author and TV presenter in the world of cricket, Harsha Bhogle’s views on the game are much sought-after and his frank and engrossing oratory skills have made him a huge hit with fans. Besides commentating on matches and presenting cricket shows, Bhogle had his own televesion program, titled “Harsha ki Khoj”, which attempted to find broadcasting talent in India. An IIM Ahmedabad alumnus, he is the co-author of the book The Winning Way with his wife, Anita Bhogle. The couple also runs a sports-based communication consultancy firm called Prosearch Consultants.
Inspiration rank: 46
Power rank: 8
Focusing on sports other than cricket, Anand Mahindra has, through the initiatives of the Mahindra Group, devoted a substantial amount of his time and money to the development of quality sportsmen in the country.
An enterpreneur extraordinaire, Anand Mahindra is the chairman of Mahindra Group, a $15 billion enterpise. The Mahindra name can be found attached to a multitude of sports in India – from basketball (Mahindra NBA challenge) and football (Mahindra United FC – now disbanded, and the Mahindra Youth Football Challenge) to MotoGP (the Mahindra racing team) and off-roading events (Mahindra Adventure). A sports enthusiast, Anand Mahindra has time and again done his bit to promote non-cricket sports in India, with the aim of encouraging and creating a new generation of competitive athletes and sportsmen.
Inspiration rank: 48
Power rank: 4
Showman Vijay Mallya has taken a departure from his razzmatazz image as far as his sporting endeavours are concerned; by investing mounds of cash in cricket, Formula 1 and football, he has brought in plenty of substance to go with the style.
One of India’s most successful businessmen, Vijay Mallya’s association with sports is well documented. The owner of the IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore, Mallya has also established a firm foothold for himself in the world of Formula One, where he is currently the co-owner of the Sahara Force India team. By naming his Formula One team ‘Force India’, Mallya almost literally put the country on the global map of motorsports. In football, Mallya’s UBHL group owns two of India’s biggest football clubs – Kingfisher East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
Inspiration rank: 24
Power rank: 34
A multiple Olympic, Asian Championship and Commonwealth Games medallist, Sushil Kumar is by far the most decorated wrestler in the country, and could also stake a claim to being India’s most accomplished sportsman.
Sushil Kumar proudly holds the unique distinction of being the first Indian since independence to win back-to-back individual Olympic medals. Following his unprecedented success at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he won bronze, Sushil Kumar went one step further by not only being the flag-bearer for his country at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, but also grabbing a silver medal in his event. A quick glance at his medal cabinet reveals a wrestler who was born to go to the very top; his multiple gold medals in Asian Championships and Commonwealth Games testify to his greatness. In 2009, he was bestowed with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Rana award, the highest honour given to sportsmen in India.
Inspiration rank: 30
Power rank: 26
From star hockey player to CEO of Olympic Gold Quest, Viren Rasquinha has traversed the whole gamut of sporting activities in India.
An accomplished hockey player in his heyday, Viren Rasquinha is best known for his success with the national team between 2002 and 2008. A midfielder with brilliant technique, Rasquinha played 180 matches for India and was the captain of the national team for a while. He also had a stint in the German hockey Bundesliga, appearing for the Stuttgart Kickers. After retiring from the game, Rasquinha studied and graduated from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, and is now the CEO of Olympic Gold Quest, an organization aimed at identifying, grooming and promoting Indian athletes in various disciplines. Rasquinha was bestowed the Arjuna Award in 2005.
Inspiration rank: 22
Power rank: 48
A fearsome boxer in the ring and a good-looking charmer in his TV ads, Vijender Singh forever inscribed his name in India’s sporting history with his bronze medal performance at the 2008 Olympics.
In 2008, Vijender Singh became the first Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal, when he won bronze by defeating Carlos Gongora of Ecuador. In 2009, he brought further glory to the nation by winning bronze at the World Amateur Boxing Championships. In the same year, he was rated the world’s top-ranked boxer in the middleweight category by the International Boxing Association (AIBA). For his exploits in the world of boxing, he was conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.
Inspiration rank: 28
Power rank: 38
A prolific goal-scorer in his prime, legendary striker IM Vijayan has continued contributing to Indian football after his retirement by setting up a football academy in his hometown.
One of the greatest footballers from India, IM Vijayan was the first player to win the coveted Indian Player of the Year award thrice – in 1993, 1997 and 1999. A lethal striker, IM Vijayan struck a successful partnership with Bhaichung Bhutia and fired India to many international wins. He also has the unique distinction of having scored the third fastest international goal, against Bhutan in the 1999 SAAF Games. Vijayan retired with 40 international goals in 79 matches for India, and has since set up a football academy in the city of his birth – Thrissur, Kerala. For his services to Indian football, he was bestowed with the prestigious Arjuna award in 2003.
Inspiration rank: 25
Power rank: 45
Cricket superstar, World Cup hero, cancer survivor – Yuvraj Singh is the role model to beat all role models in the world of Indian sports.
From a sensational match-winning debut in the ICC Champions Trophy 2000 to a Man of the Tournament performance in the ICC World Cup 2011, Yuvraj Singh has been an ever-present figure in the Indian ODI squad. An exciting batsman, a more-than-handy left-arm slow bowler and a brilliant fielder – it was no coincidence that Yuvraj Singh’s rise to stardom coincided with India’s best spell in ODI cricket. After battling a cancerous tumour in his left lung, Yuvraj Singh returned to the Indian fold. He was conferred the Arjuna Award in 2012.
Inspiration rank: 29
Power rank: 46
Touted as the successor to Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli is well on his way to becoming India’s premier batsman – he is already the country’s best ODI batsman, and looks set to take over the mantle in Tests too.
One of the most talented Indian batsmen to have ever graced the field, Virat Kohli’s rise to stardom began with the 2008 U-19 Cricket World Cup, where he captained the Indian team to glory. A stint in the IPL with the Royal Challengers Bangalore confirmed his burgeoning talent, and his exploits in the 50-over format led to him being named the vice-captain of the ODI team. Kohli won the 2012 ICC ODI Player of the Year award and has set many records already, including becoming the fastest Indian cricketer to reach 1000, 3000 and 4000 runs in ODIs.
Inspiration rank: 49
Power rank: 12
Considered by many to be the mastermind behind India’s rise to power in world cricket, Jagmohan Dalmiya has repeatedly proven his formidable administrative skills through his work with various cricket organizations, including the ICC.
The current interim president of the BCCI, Jagmohan Dalmiya is credited as being the man who changed the BCCI’s fortunes after joining the board in 1979. Along with IS Bindra, Dalmiya was responsible for bringing the World Cup to Asia in 1987 and 1996, and was also chairman of the ICC from 1997 to 2000. In 1996, BBC added Dalmiya to the list of the world’s top six sports executives, and in 2005, he was awarded the International Journal of the History of Sports Achievement award for administrative excellence in global sport.
Inspiration rank: 31
Power rank: 47
India’s most famous race car driver, Narain Karthikeyan has often held bragging rights to the title of “the fastest Indian on wheels”.
Narain Karthikeyan has the distinction of being India’s first Formula One driver, having made his debut with the Jordan team in 2005. He was also a test driver for Williams in 2006 and 2007. In 1996, Karthikeyan became the first Indian and Asian to win the Formula Asia International series. Karthikeyan has also competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the 24 hour Le Mans Series.
Inspiration rank: 47
Power rank: 15
Sunil Bharti Mittal has made an indelible mark in the Indian sports world by routing sponsorship funds from his Airtel group into cricket and football.
Sunil Bharti Mittal heads the Airtel conglomerate, which was awarded the corporate sponsorship rights for all international cricket series played in India for the next three years, on a bid of approximately Rs 165 crores ($35 million). Another venture of theirs was the Airtel Rising Stars Soccer Talent hunt, the largest U-16 soccer talent hunt in the country, involving 10,000 youngsters across 16 cities. 12 of the youngsters from the talent hunt were provided the chance to train with the Manchester United soccer school, while Airtel have built further ties with the Premier League club, becoming their official telecommunications partner for India, Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Bangladesh. The company has also been the title sponsor of the Indian Formula One Grand Prix.
Inspiration rank: 35
Power rank: 42
VVS Laxman may have retired from cricket, but those silken wristy strokes and THAT innings of 281 continue to send the country’s cricket fans into raptures.
One of the best batsmen ever produced by India, VVS Laxman’s name will forever be etched in cricket folklore, courtesy his battling 281 at the Eden Gardens against Australia in 2001. In 2002, Laxman was named as one of the 5 Wisden Cricketers of the Year. One of three people with two triple centuries in Ranji Trophy cricket, Laxman holds the record for maximum runs in a Ranji Trophy season. In honour of his services to the sport of cricket in India, Laxman was conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2011, the 4th highest civilian award given by the Government of India.
Inspiration rank: 36
Power rank: 39
With his rich playing history and insightful TV commentary, Vijay Amritraj is the sole Indian connection to international tennis for a vast majority of the country’s tennis fans.
A former tennis player and currently a sports commentator, Vijay Amritraj is a name synonymous with Grand Slam tennis. As a player, Vijay Amritraj, along with his brother Anand, reached the semifinals of the 1976 Wimbledon men’s doubles event. Amritraj also has the distinction of having beaten the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Rod Laver in singles play, and reached the singles quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the US Open twice each. The captain of India’s Davis Cup teams for large parts of the 70s and 80s, Amritraj helped India reach the finals of the team tournament in 1974 and 1987. The Britannia Amritraj Tennis academy, a Vijay Amritraj venture, is a unique program that provides training, funding and even boarding and lodging to deserving players. Amritraj also has the distinction of being the first Asian unanimously elected to Honorary Membership of the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon.
Inspiration rank: 38
Power rank: 36
Celebrated hockey coach Baldev Singh has shaped the career of many a talented hockey player, with six members of the recently successful junior women’s team originating from his academy.
Dronacharya award-winning coach Baldev Singh’s contribution to hockey cannot be overstated. His academy, the Shahbad Hockey Academy, has been churning out hockey talent year after year. Six of the bronze-medal winning Indian women’s junior hockey team hailed from the Shahbad Academy, including the tournament’s MVP, Rani Rampal. International players Ritu Rani and Sandeep Singh also hail from Shahbad.
Inspiration rank: 42
Power rank: 27
Not only has Anil Singh provided the country’s running community some much-needed support through his organization Procam, he is also credited with bringing WWF tours to India!
Anil Singh is the Managing Director of Procam International Limited, a sports management company involved in sports consultancy, live television programming and the promotion of national and international sporting events. The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and the TCS World 10K in Bangalore are some of the events that Procam handles and promotes. Apart from long distance running, Procam also provides a national platform for budding youngsters through the Coca-Cola Cricket Cup (for under-14 and under-16 cricketers), the Kingfisher Goa Pro Football League and the Mahindra Youth Football Challenge. Procam is also credited as being the organisation that first won the rights to hold WWF (now WWE) tours, bringing household names in the world of pro-wrestling to India. Other sports that Procam promotes are rugby, horse racing and body building.
Inspiration rank: 45
Power rank: 24
The original IPL head honcho and a true visionary, Lalit Modi made the IPL what it is today – a seemingly bottomless cash cow.
Most famous for his stint as Chairman and Commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Lalit Modi also held the posts of President of the Rajasthan Cricket Association and the Vice President of the BCCI. He is often hailed as the precursor behind the transformation of the BCCI’s forturnes; he reportedly raised the revenues of the board almost seven-fold during his reign.
Inspiration rank: 39
Power rank: 37
MRF Ltd., the organization headed by Arun Mammen, has taken a special interest in grooming young athletes from both motorsports and cricket, and their initiatives have already borne substantial fruit.
Arun Mammen is the Managing Director and Executive Director of MRF Ltd. MRF’s contribution to Indian sports stretches from the MRF Pace Academy (cricket) to the MRF Rally Racing team which takes part in the Asia Pacific Rally Challenge. Apart from promoting international competitions, MRF’s work at the grassroots level has given Indian motorsports the required impetus to shine on the world stage. MRF recently launched the MRF Formula 1600 National Championship, a venture aimed at unearthing and promoting budding Indian drivers.
Inspiration rank: 32
Power rank: 49
In the midst of switching from his military career to his political career, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore carved out an outstanding career in shooting too, winning silver at the 2004 Olympics.
The first athlete to win an individual silver medal in post-independence India, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is an Indian shooter specializing in the Men’s Double Trap event. For a brief time in 2004, Rathore was ranked No. 1 in the world, and he remained in the top three for the majority of his career. Successive Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medals ensured that his position at the top of his sport remained undisputed. For his services to the country, Rathore was bestowed with the Arjuna award, the Padma Shri and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. Rathore has now joined politics, and has promised to use his position to improve the quality of sports in the country in the coming years.
Inspiration rank: 33
Power rank: 50
Creating many firsts for Indian women’s tennis, Sania Mirza has rode her devastating forehand to unprecedented success on the WTA tour, becoming a sporting star, style icon and cultural rebel all at the same time.
Arguably the biggest reason for the rise in stature of women’s tennis in the country over the last decade, Sania Mirza has greatly elevated the status of the sport in India with her international success. She was once ranked in the top 30 in singles, and she has claimed 18 WTA titles (17 doubles and 1 singles) so far in her career. While she started off predominantly as a singles player, Mirza has seen great success in women’s doubles and mixed doubles events, winning three Grand Slam titles. The first of those came in 2009, making her the third Indian after Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi to win one of the sport’s four premier events. She has also won six medals in the three Asian Games events that she has participated in, as well as a silver and a bronze apiece in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. She has founded the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy in Hyderabad, and was handed the Arjuna Award in 2004 by the Indian government, as well as the Padma Shri in 2006.
Inspiration rank: 37
Power rank: 43
A true blue hockey superstar, Pargat Singh has kept himself busy with promoting the sport even after his retirement, both as an administrator and a coach.
Pargat Singh is an iconic figure in Indian hockey who achieved great success with the national team. He represented India in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, captaining the side in the last two, and was also part of the team that won silver in the 1985 and 1989 Asia Cup tournaments. He later became the national coach, and was appointed the Director of Sport for Punjab in 2005. He also served on the FIH Athletes panel, and was the director of the first women’s hockey academy in India. Now, serving as a politician, he has promised to develop sports infrastructure in Punjab and make the state the country’s topmost sports hub. The Indian government bestowed upon him the Arjuna Award in 1989, and the Padma Shree in 1998.
Inspiration rank: 50
Power rank: 20
Having done his bit for golf as an administrator in the past, Pawan Munjal now heads Hero Motocorp, which aims to develop Indian sports through its specially-designed academy.
Pawan Munjal is the Managing Director and CEO of Hero Motocorp. An avid golfer himself, Munjal was, in the past, Chairman of the Asian PGA Tour Board of Directors and the President of Professional Golfers Association of India (PGAI). Under his tutelage, the company launched the Hero Indian Sports Academy (HISA) in collaboration with Laureus Foundation; the academy is aimed at providing equal opportunities to talented sportsmen around the nation. The HISA awards is another initiative aimed at rewarding the best sportsmen of the country. Hero MotoCorp also promoted the 2010 Commonwealth Games and sponsored the Hockey World Cup in the same year, while signing on golfers Anirban Lahiri, Shiv Kapur and Gaganjeet Bhullar.
Aayush Dabas (DGM – Marketing, Rhiti Sports Management)
Akshaya Kolhe (Director – Sales, ESPN Digital Media India)
Amit Chacko Thomas (Managing Director, Game On Sports Management)
Amrut Joshi (Founder Partner, Gamechanger Sports Ventures)
Ankan Banerjee (Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management)
Arup Soans (Managing Partner, QSport Media)
Ashok Nath (Founder, Catalyst Sports)
Baljit Rihal (Founder Asian Football Awards / Licensed Players Agent, Inventive Sports)
Debayan Sen (Sports Commentator and Broadcast Consultant)
Dhruv Ratra (CEO, Anglian Holdings)
Hakimuddin Habibulla (Founder and Principal Consultant – Sports Performance, Winning Matters Consulting)
Hemant Dua (CEO, Inspiranti Sports)
Jay Shah (Director, Sports Gurukul)
Kanishka Saran (Vice President, SPT Sports Management)
Kashif Siddiqui (AVP – Strategy & Alliances, KOOH Sports)
Lokknath R Char (CEO, Lokko Sports)
Mackinlay Barreto (Managing Partner, Boomerang Sports)
Madhukar Jha (Co-founder , Pitch Invasion New Media)
Maneesh Bahuguna (CEO, Anglian Medal Hunt)
Mazhar Ahmed (Managing Director, v2v Media & Sports)
Mukul Choudhari (Director, Academy at Manchester United Soccer Schools)
Neerav Tomar (MD & CEO, IOS Sports & Entertainment)
Niranjan P (Vice President – Operations, Celebrity Cricket League)
Nirvan Shah (CEO, PIFA Academy)
Parminder Gill (Co-founder, EduSports)
Prabhu Srinivasan (CEO, KOOH Sports)
Prantik Mazumdar (Managing Partner, Gamechanger India)
Premdeep Gangadharan (Director and co-founder, Fans On Stands Sports)
Puneet Mehra (Vice President, KOOH Sports)
Rahul Teny (AGM – Strategic Planning, McDonalds India)
Raj Dam (Founder, QuizWorks)
Ramakrishna Kalluri (CEO, Playgroundonline.com)
Sunny Narang (Chairman, Anglian Sports Management Group)
Saumil Majumdar (Co-founder & MD, EduSports)
Siddharth Pandey (Founder & CEO, LEH LEH Sports)
Sukhvinder Singh (Managing Director, Libero Sports India)
Vaibhav Tandon (Head – Research and Analysis, Olympic Gold Quest)
Vasanth Bharadwaj (Founder Director, TENVIC)
Vishal Jaison (Director – Sales & Business Development, Total Sports Asia)
Vivek Pathak (Chairman, Cue Sports India)
1. Saina Nehwal
2. Mahendra Singh Dhoni
3. Sachin Tendulkar
4. Bhaichung Bhutia
5. MC Mary Kom
6. Rahul Dravid
7. Abhinav Bindra
8. PT Usha
9. Milkha Singh
10. Viswanathan Anand
11. Anil Kumble
12. Prakash Padukone
13. Kapil Dev
14. Leander Paes
15. Geet Sethi
16. Dhanraj Pillay
17. Jeev Milkha Singh
18. Gagan Narang
19. Pullela Gopichand
20. Sunil Gavaskar
21. Sourav Ganguly
22. Vijender Singh
23. Mahesh Bhupathi
24. Sushil Kumar
25. Yuvraj Singh
26. Ratan Tata
27. Harsha Bhogle
28. IM Vijayan
29. Virat Kohli
30. Viren Rasquinha
31. Narain Karthikeyan
32. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore
33. Sania Mirza
34. Shahrukh Khan
35. VVS Laxman
36. Vijay Amritraj
37. Pargat Singh
38. Baldev Singh
39. Arun Mammen
40. Ajay Maken
41. Lakshmi Mittal
42. Anil Singh
43. Mukesh Ambani
44. Subrata Roy
45. Lalit Modi
46. Anand Mahindra
47. Sunil Bharti Mittal
48. Vijay Mallya
49. Jagmohan Dalmiya
50. Pawan Munjal
1. Mahendra Singh Dhoni
2. Mukesh Ambani
3. Subrata Roy
4. Vijay Mallya
5. Sachin Tendulkar
6. Ratan Tata
7. Ajay Maken
8. Anand Mahindra
9. Lakshmi Mittal
10. Pullela Gopichand
11. Shahrukh Khan
12. Jagmohan Dalmiya
13. Anil Kumble
14. Geet Sethi
15. Sunil Bharti Mittal
16. Rahul Dravid
17. Prakash Padukone
18. Sunil Gavaskar
19. Mahesh Bhupathi
20. Pawan Munjal
21. Kapil Dev
22. Sourav Ganguly
23. Bhaichung Bhutia
24. Lalit Modi
25. Harsha Bhogle
26. Viren Rasquinha
27. Anil Singh
28. Mary Kom
29. PT Usha
30. Abhinav Bindra
31. Viswanathan Anand
32. Leander Paes
33. Dhanraj Pillay
34. Sushil Kumar
35. Milkha Singh
36. Baldev Singh
37. Arun Mammen
38. IM Vijayan
39. Vijay Amritraj
40. Saina Nehwal
41. Jeev Milkha Singh
42. VVS Laxman
43. Pargat Singh
44. Gagan Narang
45. Yuvraj Singh
46. Virat Kohli
47. Narain Karthikeyan
48. Vijender Singh
49. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore
50. Sania Mirza