For an Indian punter, the cricket team’s ’83 World Cup victory would be the odds-on favourite in every poll for the single most defining moment in Indian sport. It came at the right time too: India was just coming to terms with colour TV and the win catapulted cricket’s popularity among the masses. (There’s a theory that this caused the downfall of other sports in the country, whatever state it may have been in the first place. But more on that later.) Twenty-five years hence, and despite the constant heartaches, the Men in Blue are still the only ones who can put a smile—or, indeed, a frown— on Indian faces. Sure, there’s a P.T. Usha or an Anju Bobby George, even a Sania Mirza forehand to raise the pulse a little, but it’s the Gangulys and Tendulkars who affirm our faith that we can possibly take on the world as equals.
If you are part of the dejected billion-plus-Indians-and-yet-no-Olympic-gold-medal crib brigade, don’t be. You’ll be surprised at the number of world-beaters who have sprung from Indian soil. Eleven years after Independence, Wilson Jones put us on the map, becoming "the first Indian to win a world crown in any sport" when he won the World Billiards championship. He was to start a legacy that has seen Michael Ferreira, Geet Sethi, Om Agarwal and Pankaj Advani claim world titles in billiards and amateur snooker. Even the ladies haven’t done too bad, Anuja Thakur and Chitra Magimairaj have won top honours in the world ladies billiards championships. Games of tactics have also been a forte, chess genius Viswanathan Anand and the plethora of IMs and GMs in the country certify to the fact. Anand, incidentally, won the world title in 2000 and is also the reigning world No. 1.