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Sons of the Soil: Greatest Sportspersons of India, all time!

arpit kumar11
Editor's Pick
2.29K   //    25 Aug 2010, 21:37 IST

When in the realm of sport, the first question that springs up in ones mind is who in the past have been the greatest? The greatest sportspersons of all time. These sportsmen have embellished their names on the face of sport with their sweat and blood! Many of them were instrumental not just for their teams (when in teams) but also for the sport and its popularity. Names like Tiger Woods, Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Jordon and Roger Federer are our contemporaries who come to mind.  In the past their have been others like Muhammed Ali, Major Dhyan Chand and Sir Donald Bradman.

A unique thing about sports is that each moment some athlete or sportsperson is perspiring to better these men. But great sportspersons are also to some degree, the ones, whose records are stellar or unachievable.

Arriving at a definition for greatness, is a difficult process. Since, it is a matter of subjectivity. India has now completed 63 years as an Independent nation, and for these number of years we have produced some if not many sportsmen and women who have waved India’s flag at the summit of excellence.

At every moment these athletes inspire and guide the youngsters who are vying for a place among them. May it be Saina Nehwal, Somdev Devvaraman, Virender Sehwag or Sunil Chetri.

These players have put India on the world map and have made us proud. To rank them is to diminish their credentials and achievements for we cannot compare an athlete to a footballer nor can we compare a cricketer to a shooter. Each of these players have a special place in their respective sport and in the hearts of the Indian Sports Fan.

But for the sake of it.

Abhinav Bindra

Abhinav Bindra

5. Abhinav Bindra – [polldaddy rating="2602400"]
The latest entry in this list. Abhinav Bindra was an unknown entity in Indian Sport until the 2008 Olympic GAmes when he became one of the best overnight. This recognition did come overnight for Bindra but the gold medal in 10 m Air Rifle was not sudden. It took years of practice, dedication, discipline and spirit to make it big, in a country where there has been no individual gold medals ever before. Not only that Abhinav Bindra ended India’s draught of gold medals which lasted 28 long years, the last one was won by the Men’s Field Hockey team in 1980.

Abhinav Bindra had won many laurels for the country before the Olympics at Beijing, and very few people know that he had come very close to a medal at Sydney 2004 Olympics too. His record in the Commonwealth Games is impeccable, winning the gold in 10m Air Rifle in 2006 and silver in 2002 (individual). In the pairs event he won gold in both 2002 and 2006.

Abhinav Bindra has been awarded with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna Award and Padma Bhushan. Amazingly, Abhinav Bindra had already won the highest award in Indian Sport – The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2001 after he made it to the Olympics in 2000 as the youngest Indian participant. Incredulous to us, his biggest achievement was to come 7 years later in Beijing.


Abhinav Bindra has been a constant critic of the lack of sporting infrastructure in India. Abhinav himself has his father to thank who provided him with a shooting range with world class facilities to practice in. Abhinav Bindra believes that a sporting culture is what India needs.

The Commonwealth Games at Delhi are coming up and Indians have lots of hopes from the Shooting contingent. Abhinav Bindra will spearhead the team and nothing less than a gold is expected from him, and no doubt he will deliver!

M.C. Mary Kom

M.C. Mary Kom

4. M.C. Mary Kom
[polldaddy rating="2602397"]

In a country where all sports except for Cricket are marginalized, it is amazing that nobody ever noticed that within this marginalization women’s sport is still more sidelined. Few people can name women athletes in this country except for some Tennis stars and PT Usha. Athletes such as Anju Bobby George, Karnam Maleshwari, Kunjrani Devi, India Women’s Hockey and Cricket Team never got the recognition they deserved.

Mary Kom or “Magnificient Mary” is on this list at number four but there is no reason why she is not at number one! Because the more I think of her achievements the more I wish she could be number 1. Not only has she fought a paralyzed sporting system but also poverty and malnutrition on her way to the summit of International Women’s Boxing.

What is most amazing about Mary Kom is her consistency, Mary Kom won her first AIBA World Women’s Senior Boxing Championship in 2002 at an age of 19. Since then she has not looked back. She has won laurels after laurels for India. Winning 4 World Women Boxing Championships in 2001, 02. 05 and 06. She won her 5th AIBA title in 2008.

Mary Kom received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna alongside Vijender Singh in 2009. India’s highest award for achievement in sport. Mary Kom also runs a website of her own called

We @ Sportskeeda have had the pleasure to interview her. You can pursue that here.

Besides being a world champion, Mary is a house maker too. She is a dedicated wife and a proud mother of two. India salutes Mary Kom!

Dhyan Chand

Dhyan Chand

3. Dhyan Chand
[polldaddy rating="2602393"]

In a cricket crazy nation, every true Indian Sports fan still has a soft corner for Hockey. And somewhere in that heart of an ardent sports fan lives Dhyan Chand. For none has been left untouched by the exploits of the Indian Hockey team in the past. For a long period of time, India was to Hockey what Brazil is to football.

It is true that our players are still considered the best in terms of flair. But we are nowhere near to what we were in the past.

Dhyan Chand represents what was best in Indian Hockey. Just for those who did not know, Dhyan chand was a centre forward who guided India to three Olympic gold medals in consecutive editions in 1928, 1932 and 1936.

Dhyan Chand is without a doubt the best player of Hockey the world has seen. Dhyan Chand’s game was characterized by magical stick work, slick passing, a combination of routines with fellow players and an unmatched ability to finish.

“Chand” is a actually a title bestowed on him by one of his coaches, and also affectionately called “magician of hockey” after his success at the 1928 Olympic games at Amsterdam.

The only reason that Dhyan Chand is here at number three in spite of perhaps being superior than all five in the quality of his game and achievements; is the fact that he has become like stellar.

An unachievable perfectness, a rich past which is difficult to emulate and impossible to better. It is said India was “sone ki chidiya” (a golden bird) – filthy rich and full of jewels. That reality seems far fetched when we see the poverty in India today. Similarly, Dhyan Chand’s glory is fading in the current state of hockey in India.

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar

2. Sachin Tendulkar
[polldaddy rating="2602389"]
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, a name that’s synonymous to “cricket” not only in India but all over the world. How many times, have we seen him raise that bat of his to the skies in acknowledgement of God’s gift to him.

Somebody, has said talent is god’s gift. If that is true, Sachin Tendulkar can walk upto god and say without hesitation, “I used all that you gave me”.

Name a record and you have it on his name, most test matches, most runs, most centuries. There is no doubt about0 what he has achieved in his career surpassing twenty years, cannot be bettered anytime soon and perhaps never.

But what makes Sachin great and puts hims at Number two in this list among great athletes, is the inspiration he has give to generations of youngsters. Every young boy wields his first bat at the name of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

The popularity and craze that Cricket has achieved in a short time in India has a lot to do with Sachin Tendulkar and his authoritative presence on the cricket field.

Sometimes larger than the game in India, Sachin remains still a humble person which makes him alll the more adorable. Long live Sachin Tendulkar!

P.S: Name an award, and he has it! All that remains is the highest civillian award in India. The Bharat Ratna.

Vishwanathan Anand

Vishwanathan Anand

1. Vishwanathan Anand
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Vishwanathan Anand or Vishy Anand is one such person who would make a true champion. In history their have been few masters who have been agreeable to their serfs. Vishy Anand on this list is one such master. He commands respect and deserves this position both in his quality as a sportsman and as a leader of the pack.

Vishwanathan Anand has left a trail of youngsters who are growing up to be Grandmasters, who will soon challenge his own authority. Anand has now successfully defended his crown as the world champion against Topalov and has registered his name in even bolder words among the greatest sportsmen of all time.

Chess is a game of the mind, no physical exercise is rendered necessary for its disposal but there is hardly any other sport that requires more discipline and mental strength. His quality in this game enhances India’s image in the world as a intellectual nation.

In the end, I would once again remind the readers that a ranking for these players is unjust in its being. For all these five can interchange these positions with the subjectivity of the author. So it is possible that someone might totally exclude one of these players and yet the resulting list seem fair.

It is only an exercise for one’s own thought.

Also, a tribute here for those athletes who did not find a mention in this list. “The flying sikh” Milkha Singh and his son Jeev Milkha Singh, Bhaichung Bhutia, PT Usha, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza and all Hockey players who brought us laurels. Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev.

The list is endless and it is my responsibility to apologize if I missed any name (which surely I have, many).

arpit kumar11
A student of 'literatures in English'. Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Amitav Ghosh fan. Pursuing M.A. at Delhi University. Follows sport because there is no nobler way of filling the void that is life (after literature that is).
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