It wasn’t too long ago that the landscape of Indian sports was dominated by just one sport -ÃÂ cricket. But over the last decade or so, the nation has borne witness to the emergence of icons from other sports as well.
In a country where almost half the demographic is under the age of 25, sportspersons are a huge influence on the young. These stalwarts can count not only millions of Indians amongst their fans, but also rising superstars of sport as well.
The reason they are the most inspiring figures from the world of sport lies not only in their achievements while donning the tricolour, but also because of what they have given back to sport and society. Here are our picks, in no particular order :
A book’s title summed it up perfectly – “If Cricket is Religion, Sachin is God”. Arguably the greatest Indian sportsperson (so far, we hope), the greatest Indian cricketer and one of the greatest cricketers of all time, “The Little Master” is a household name in the country. Known for his unassuming nature, Sachin preferred to let his bat do the bragging. It would suprise many to know that he was a bully in his childhood and would pick fights with other kids at school. His older brother Ajit introduced him to cricket to channel his energy at age 11 and the rest is history.
All the books and videos about him do not do him justice, though the wonder that encompassed him could be perceived in a single stroke he played. Oft-repeated as they are, his cricketing records don't cease to be any less amazing - 24-year career, 663 international matches, over 34,000 runs and 100 tons. But it was the subtler things that also made him the player he was - the 140* against Kenya that he scored just a few days after his father's death that kept India's hopes alive in the '99 World Cup, becoming the youngest to score a test century in England at age 17 and the back-to-back centuries against Australia in Sharjah that won the series in '98.
The reverence toward Sachin is also because of his efforts to pay it forward. The Master Blaster sponsors 200 underprivileged children every year through Apnalaya, a Mumbai-based NGO. In 2010, he raised ₹ 1.02 crores via Twitter for the Crusade Against Cancer foundation. In 2013, Sachin spent 12 hours on NDTV to raise ₹ 7 crores for the building of basic facilities, mainly toilets for girls, in 140 government schools in the country.