In 1999, his name was mud after being dragged into the cricket match-fixing controversy (he was cleared of the charges later). Three years later, in July 2002, Kapil Dev Ramlal Nikhanj was holding aloft the Wisden Indian Cricketer of the Century award. For our greatest fast bowler, and the only cricketer to have taken over 400 wickets and scored 5,000-plus runs in Tests, it was a crowning glory. He’s also back in the ads, has got his own TV show and is teeing off more than ever.
Golf in India
Indian professional golf truly came of age, thanks to some sparkling feats on the green. A surfeit of stars were born: Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal, Gaurav Ghei, Harmeet Kahlon and Arjun Singh. Jeev and Kahlon just missed out on the US pga and European tours respectively. Even amateurs like Shiv Kapur and Simarjeet Singh brought home laurels. Kapur is the first Indian in 20 years to win the Asian Games gold (at Busan), and Simarjeet is the first to win the prestigious Sri Lankan International amateur event thrice in a row. The money’s looking great too. Cricket at last has competition in the glamour, money sweepstakes.
On a bright July Lord’s afternoon, an Allahabad boy electrified a billion Indians and gave notice to the world that another star had been born. Mohammad Kaif came in to bat at 146 for 5, with India needing 180 more runs in 156 balls to win the Natwest Trophy. India won, with Kaif unbeaten on 87 off 75 balls. In the next match, against Zimbabwe, he came in at 87 for five, and ended up scoring 111 off 112 balls. India won. Whipcord body, cryogenic nerves, inventive strokeplay: Kaif is Indian batting’s last line of offence.
At the Busan Asian Games earlier this year, Sunita Rani, a sprightly 23-year-old middle distance runner from Punjab, set a new Asiad record in the 1,500 metres and broke her own mark on the way to the bronze in the women’s 5,000 metres. But her triumph was sullied when she tested positive for nandrolone. Hounded by the media, a distraught Sunita kept claiming she was innocent, and then went into hiding. Now, the International Olympic Committee says the drug tests on the runner in Busan had "some discrepancies and procedural lapses". Ergo, Sunita’s medals will now be given back. All’s well that ends well.
If courage is grace under pressure, Rahul Dravid has always embodied it in the Indian team. But even by his high standards, Dravid had an exceptional year. After batting very well in the West Indies, he was almost magical in England where he hit three centuries, including a career-best 217 at the Oval. His 109 against the Windies at Ahmedabad won the match for us against extraordinary odds, and he was the only batsman who showed some resolve in New Zealand. Plus, he kept wickets in odis and captained when Ganguly was injured. Now, if only he could partner Zaheer Khan with the new ball?