Along with the cricket team, India's 'other' athletes and teams record a series of historic wins this week
The Indian Cricket team have had a real roller-coaster of a week, that started with an emphatic win over Pakistan in their ICC Champions Trophy opener. The Pakistan side never stood a chance in a match curtailed by rain, as the Indians put on a clinical show to trounce their arch rivals from across the border.
Fans had been looking forward to the match for weeks and as soon as it began in the afternoon last Sunday, families across India planted themselves in front of their TV sets and cheered for the Men in Blue at every ball. However, India’s innings with the bat was incessantly interrupted by rain, leaving viewers fuming and praying for the showers to subside.
For the few who would have had the courage to change the channel, it might have been possible to have caught a glimpse of another top Indian athlete recording an outstanding fightback to win his second tournament in a row.
Sai Praneeth, from one game down, defeated Indonesian prodigy Jonatan Christie in the final of the Thailand Open to follow his Singapore Open Super Series win where he overcame compatriot Kidambi Srikanth in another memorable final. After returning home, Praneeth confessed in an interview that he wished his match did not clash with the Indo-Pak game, but also expressed his gratitude for the wishes he received on social media.
The nation had two fine victories to celebrate, along with the football team's win over Nepal on Tuesday, but for the cricketing stars, there was a sudden reality check on Thursday.
Batting first, India amassed a competitive total of 321/6 and everyone expected it to be enough to beat a struggling Sri Lanka side. However, the Lankans chased it down with seven wickets to spare, leaving the Indians facing South Africa in their next game which became a virtual quarter-final.
As Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis took their side to a historic win, India got to celebrate a historic victory of its own at the same time. Across the English Channel on the Roland Garros clay, Rohan Bopanna lifted his first-ever Grand Slam title at the age of 37. After years of waiting in the wings, Bopanna finally took his bow in the spotlight and gave his nation a win to savour.savour.
Partnered by Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski in the final of the mixed doubles event at the French Open, the duo pulled off a Sai Praneeth-esque comeback, coming back from a set down against the pairing of Robert Farah and Anna-Lena Gronefeld to win 2-6 6-2 12-10.
The cricket team’s Champions Trophy clashes were proving to be lucky for the ‘other’ athletes in the nation’s sporting hierarchy and come next Sunday in the South Africa clash, there was a perfect opportunity to test if there really was a connection between the two.
And boy, we did have a truly groundbreaking moment but this time it was before the action in the Champions Trophy began. As the nation woke up today, news came through about Mahindra Racing’s win on the Formula E circuit in Germany, the first time a team from India had won an international motorsports event of this magnitude.
Swedish driver Felix Rosenqvist finished on top of the podium in the first leg of the Berlin ePrix, which meant for the very first time, the Indian national anthem was played at such a competition, marking a watershed moment for Team Mahindra and prompting Anand Mahindra, the chairman of the Mahindra Group, to tweet, “I stood and wept...Jai Ho!”
A day earlier, archers Abhishek Verma and Divya Dahal had also bagged a bronze medal at the Archer World Cup Stage II in Antalya, Turkey in the compound mixed category while boxer Gaurav Chauhan clinched silver at the prestigious President's Cup in Astana, Kazakhstan that saw over 150 pugilists vie for the top honours.
And finally, as the day came to a close, the cricket team capped off the week on a perfect note with a confident win against South Africa, reducing them to a meager total of 191 all out, before chasing it down with 12 overs and eight wickets left.
It was a great week for Indian sport and believe it or not, the one that is about to begin could be even more special. India face Bangladesh next in the semifinal on Thursday and with a win against the Tigers, they will play the final of the Champions Trophy, which is scheduled for June 18.
The same day, we have the final of the Indonesia Open Super Series lined up, a tournament which has 14 Indians, including PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Sai Praneeth competing along with the mouth-watering prospect of an India-Pakistan match at the Hockey World League Semifinals in London.
Here's hoping it all adds up come next Sunday and we can see the Indian teams and athletes claim three (or possibly more) landmark victories!