India at 75 | Five key moments in independent India’s sporting history 

The Hindu takes a look at how India has fared across sports since Independence.

Published - August 14, 2022 06:37 pm IST

File photo: With his trademark dimple, Kapil Dev lifts the World Cup after India’s scintillating win in 1983

File photo: With his trademark dimple, Kapil Dev lifts the World Cup after India’s scintillating win in 1983 | Photo Credit: Getty Images

India has an incredibly rich past, even when it comes to sports. Indian sportspersons have attained glory and won across a variety of sporting disciplines at all levels: local, national, and international.

As India completes 75 years of Independence, we take a look at five key moments in the country’s sporting history.

(Please note that this is, in no way, an exhaustive list.)

1948 Hockey Olympic gold

Merely a year after gaining Independence, India beat Great Britain 4-0 to win gold in themen’s hockey final at the 1948 Summer Olympics. The event was held after the end of World War II and the bloody partition of British India into India and Pakistan. Independent India’s first hockey gold at Olympics was an occasion that still stands out in the history of the country.

1983 Cricket World Cup

Cricket is often as revered as a religion in India. It is only apt that the country’s first World Cup in 1983 is counted among its most memorable moments.

Cricketing legend Kapil Dev led Team India to its first World Cup title victory on June 25, 1983, beating the West Indies team by 43 runs at the Lord’s Stadium in England. India was bowled out for 183, and the West Indies had one of the best batting line-ups in international cricket at the time. Kris Srikkanth was India’s top scorer with 38 runs. Viv Richards tried to put up a brave fight for West Indies by hitting multiple boundaries but was caught out by captain Kapil Dev in one of Madan Lal’s overs.

Karnam Malleswari’s Olympic win

When it comes to Indian trailblazers at the Olympics, Karnam Malleswari is right there at the top. She was the first Indian woman to win a medal for India at any Olympics. At 25, Ms. Malleswari won the bronze medal for weightlifting in the 69-kg category with a total of 240 kg – snatch 110 kg, clean and jerk 130 kg.

In hindsight, Ms. Malleswari could have won the silver or gold medal, instead of just the bronze, if not for a miscalculation. In interviews later, she said that heavier weights are usually not preferred in the final lift. If she had attempted to lift 132 kg or 135 kg instead of the 137 kg that she did and missed, she might have ended up higher in the rankings. However, the “Iron Lady” of Indian sports did achieve an iconic feat and become the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal for India.

Viswanathan Anand, first Indian chess grandmaster

The story of chess is incomplete without the mention of Viswanathan Anand, or Vishy as he is affectionately called. He is considered one of the world’s greatest rapid chess players of his generation. He is not a full-time professional chess player anymore, but his achievements have left an indelible mark on the sport.

In 1985, Mr. Anand earned the title of International Master, and in 1988, he became the first-ever Grandmaster from India. He has competed in ten world championships, and won five of them.

Mr. Anand’s meteoric rise in international chess has not only established him as one of the greatest chess players of all time but also done wonders for the sport in India. Ever since he first started playing chess, India has produced several Grandmasters and players of international repute, such as Koneru Humpy and R Praggnanandhaa.

Abhinav Bindra’s Olympic win

On August 11, 2008, Abhinav Bindra scripted history by becoming the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics. Coming off of a devastating experience in the 2004 Athens Olympics when he lost his chance to win due to an unstable wooden flooring, Mr. Bindra literally shot to glory in Beijing, scoring an almost perfect 10.8 on his last shot in the men’s 10m air rifle shooting event. He finished the 10m men’s air rifle with a score of 700.5, and gave India its much-awaited individual Olympic gold.

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