O(c)toberfest: Sports adds to festive spirit in stellar month
(Eds: recasting yesterday's story with updated results)
New Delhi, Oct 30 (PTI) From the badminton court to the cricket ground, from the hockey stadium to the football pitch, it has been a month to remember for Indian sports. And performance was not the only yardstick.
As millions of fans took pride and delight in shuttler Kidambi Srikanth's French Open triumph yesterday, it was a reminder that India is slowly but surely carving its place as an ambitious sporting nation. Never before has the country achieved so many successes in one month as this October.
"When a confident young nation starts to apply itself, change is always visible. Successes are due to the efforts of the athletes and coaches," Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore told PTI.
Whether it was the action on the field of play or hosting for the first time, marquee events such as the FIFA under-17 World Cup, the country has reasons to be proud of on multiple counts.
The shuttlers dazzled consistently, the hockey team continued a revival march, the cricketers dominated effortlessly and amid all this, the under-17 football World Cup had fans flocking to stadiums despite the home team's early ouster.
"The successful hosting of FIFA under-17 World Cup in the backdrop of Mission XI Million has given football a fillip. We aim primacy of athletes, coaches, and fans in the sports architecture of the country," Rathore said.
"We are for Suvidha and Samman (facilities and respect) to players. I am happy that our players too are responding with their dedication and determination to bring laurels to the country. Programmes like Khelo India will take forward the momentum of the current brilliant performance," he said.
Among the highlights this month was Srikanth's Denmark and French Open triumphs, making him the first Indian to win four Super Series titles in a year. The men's hockey team also scripted a little piece of history by winning its first Asia Cup title win in 10 years.
Add to this, the cricket team beating world champions Australia followed by New Zealand as well as some tennis and golfing cheer.
And the man, who is, without doubt, the toast of the nation right now, Virat Kohli, did his bit to increase the euphoria by going past the great Ricky Ponting to be the second highest accumulator of ODI hundreds.
While India remained a novice on the football field, it won the bragging rights of conducting a FIFA Under-17 World Cup for the first time, which was declared a "resounding success" by the world body's boss -- Gianni Infantino. It was hardly a surprise given that the hosts managed to break attendance records for an age group world cup.
Away from the buzz that the under-17 World Cup surprisingly generated, India also smoothly pulled off hosting -- again for the first time -- the ISSF Shooting World Cup Final.
The creme-de-la-creme of international shooting descended on the Indian capital for the season's finale at the Karni Singh Ranges and the host nation's best ever performance in the event, a gold, a silver, and a bronze medal, made it memorable in more ways than one.
Adding to the cheer were the on-mark archers, who notched up a silver medal at the World Championships in Argentina.
All things put together, rarely has a single month brought so many sporting reasons for India to celebrate. And the most heartening aspect of it all has been that cricket was just one of the contributing factors.
It was a very expected first-round exit from the under-17 World Cup but it was nonetheless made unforgettable for the nation by Jeakson Singh, a 16-year-old son of a street vendor in Manipur, who became the first Indian to score a goal in a FIFA World Cup.
The strike against Colombia was certainly one for the history books and is unlikely to be forgotten. Then there were the shuttlers, a consistent bunch of performers, ensuring that almost every weekend had a title up for grabs for the country.
The striking feature of the Indians' rising stature in international badminton has been their ability to regularly get the better of Chinese players, the most formidable in the world despite their recent slump.
The cricketers, on the other hand, went about their business with usual elan. Kohli's men have been nearly unstoppable for a while now and being at home has made them just a shade more dominating and intimidating.
The Australians were at the receiving end of this intensity and they hardly looked like world champions in what can only be described as a sound thrashing.
New Zealand arrived next and although they gave a better account of themselves, compared to Australia, India still managed to raise the bar when it mattered to lock their seventh successive bilateral series.
In fact, it wouldn't be wrong to say that sports provided the Diwali fireworks, which seem to be on the wane with every passing year