2010 sports roundup

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The year 2010 was a year of firsts in sports: Spain won the FIFA World Cup, England won their first world title in cricket, India beat England in the CWG gold medals tally and Sachin Tendulkar claimed the most elusive one-day record of them all. Then, there were the lows: the IPL mess and the spot-fixing scandal.

Also, Muttiah Muralitharan and Freddie Flintoff retired from Test cricket, Viswanathan Anand remained king of chess, India reclaimed the Asia Cup after 15 years and Saina Nehwal reached a career highest rank of No. 2.

Before we let these moments slip by at the turn of a new decade, Yahoo! India recalls them all.

1. Sach a Long Journey

At 37, the little man with the big bat is playing like there is no tomorrow. In the 21st year of his international career, the senior-most member of the Indian team is setting benchmarks his young team-mates would struggle   to follow. Lesser men have quietly walked towards retirement; Tendulkar is busy creating new records in all formats.

Towering over his personal achievements this year is the ODI double hundred against South Africa – the first in the 39-year-old history of the game. However, he’s saved his energies for Tests and T20s. His six hundreds this year, including two doubles, is an Indian record. In the summer, he’d set a new IPL record of 618 runs in the season, making many wonder why he has shunned T20 Internationals.

Tendulkar took the coveted ICC Cricketer of The Year award for the first time, having also won the People’s Choice Award. Tendulkar’s immense hunger for runs has, no doubt, helped India remain No. 1 in Tests. Next on his radar is the ODI World Cup in February, and 100 international hundreds, a feat that would be no less than Pele’s 1,000th goal.

2. Cricket Series Wins

One for the Empire: England’s 1st World Title

The inventors of cricket have the unenviable record of losing World Cup finals in 1979, 1987, 1992, and the Champions Trophy final in 2004. But Paul Collingwood’s men finally gave them their first world title, as they beat favourites Australia in the one-sided final of the 2010 World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.

On a perfect day at Bridgetown’s Kensington Oval, England reduced Australia to 45-4. David Hussey’s 59 took them to 147-6. Two in-form batsmen of South African extract, Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen smashed Australia all around before Collingwood sealed the win in the 18th over.

Credit goes to coach Andy Flower too, under whose watch England has maintained a 70 percent success rate in Tests and ODIs, and 80 percent in T20s. Young talents like Eoin Morgan and Graeme Swann have shone bright. The World T20 isn’t England’s greatest cricketing triumph, but has opened the doors for more.

Continental Delight: India win Asia Cup

India denied Sri Lanka a hat-trick of Asian titles, thrashing them in a one-sided final in Dambulla. This was India’s first Asian title since 1995, and their fifth overall. In the interim period, they’d lost three finals, all to Sri Lanka. This time, something had to give.

In conditions difficult for chasing, India elected to bat. Dinesh Karthik’s 68 and other chunky contributions from the middle order took them to 268-6. With the swinging new ball, Nehra, Zaheer and Praveen wreaked havoc on the Lankan top-order, thus ensuring a comfortable 81-run win.

Champions of the two-horse race, India have struggled to win finals of major tournaments. With seniors like Tendulkar and Sehwag missing, India’s youngsters put behind the disappointments of the World Twenty20 and the Zimbabwe tri-series to complete a win that was important in the overall scheme of things.

3. The New Arch Rivals Two Much, Too Little

This series was planned as an afterthought. The BCCI suddenly felt the need to play more Tests after India became No. 1. So a seven-game ODI series against Australia was curtailed to make way for two Tests. Two hotly-contested Tests left fans craving for more.

In the first Test in Mohali, India were eight-down, 92 away from a win on a tricky pitch. A half-fit VVS Laxman joining a half-fit Ishant Sharma at the crease didn’t inspire thoughts of a comeback. And then it happened.

Ishant blocked one end up, while Laxman toyed around with Australia’s spread-out fields. An umpiring blunder nearly proved costly, but last-man Pragyan Ojha sealed India’s only one-wicket win in Tests.

Things were a trifle easier in Bangalore. Before a packed house — a rarity in Tests — debutant Cheteshwar Pujara set up the chase. Then, first innings double-centurion Tendulkar capped the 2-0 win with a fifty. With it, Ponting may have lost his last chance to lead Australia to a win in India.

4. Yellow Fever: Chennai

Super Kings

Chennai win IPL, Champions League

Chennai Super Kings capped an excellent season, becoming the first team to win the IPL and the Champions League. Having beaten Tendulkar’s Mumbai Indians in the IPL final, MS Dhoni’s men beat Warriors in the CL final in Johannesburg.

Young players like Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin led their successful campaigns in both tournaments. In the IPL final, Chennai beat favourites Mumbai by 22 runs. Later in South Africa, Vijay topped the run charts with 294, while Ashwin had 13 wickets.

5. Cricket Retirements Goodbye, Freddie

One of the finest all-rounders of the modern game, England’s Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff retired from cricket due to recurring injuries. The talismanic cricketer struggled with knee injuries as he bowled non-stop to ensure England’s Ashes triumph in 2009. He wanted to play limited over formats, but fitness troubles put an early end to his plans.

“Having been told my body would no longer stand up to the rigours of cricket, I had no alternative,” said the heartbroken all-rounder. Ankle and knee problems had haunted Flintoff throughout his career. He eventually gave in “with utter disappointment and sadness.”

The highlight of his 10-year international career was the Ashes win over a strong Australian side in 2005. He had scored 402 runs and taken 24 wickets in the series to help England win back the Ashes after 18 years. The former England captain played 79 Tests and 141 ODIs. He scored 3,845 Test runs with five centuries at an average of 31.77. He took 226 Test wickets and also scored 3,394 runs in ODIs, taking 169 wickets.

Mount Murali: Lankan claims 800th wicket

Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan retired from Test cricket with a bowling record that may never be broken. In his final Test, against India in Galle, he took eight wickets to finish with a staggering 800 Test wickets. When he had first claimed the record, the magic number was a mere 520.

He’s also the leading wicket-taker in ODI and has retired from Tests in
order to prolong his limited overs career. In his 18-year-long career, the off-spinner’s unorthodox bowling action has been heavily scrutinised by umpires and ex-players. Throwing laws were rewritten to accommodate bowlers like Muralitharan, who was born with a double-jointed elbow that created the illusion of throwing.

On the field or off it, the Sri Lankan is revered. He’s known as much for his philanthropic drive as for his quiet aggression that’s fetched him the tag of “the smiling assassin.” He’s popular among team mates and opponents for his gentlemanly behaviour and sense of humour. One of the  most dreaded bowlers of all time, Murali is still good for ODIs and T20s, and has expressed his desire to play the 2011 World Cup.

6. Cricket Controversies Cricket in a fix

Seems like the IPL mess was not enough.

Murmurs of match-fixing never quite died down after Cronjegate. But it had all been smoke without fire — till a tabloid expose blew the lid off a massive scandal this year.

A bookie, acting as an agent of Pakistan’s national cricketers, was caught on tape fixing no-balls in the Lord’s Test, even as he bragged about having made millions for his players by fixing results on Pakistan’s Australia tour.

Shockingly, no denials came from the tainted players — Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Aamer — even as the Pakistan Cricket Board tried to let the matter quietly pass by.

The ICC had none of it and suspended the trio. The PCB’s bungling chief Ijaz Butt became a laughing stock in his attempt to cast English players as match-fixers. The sport suffered a massive loss of face by Pakistan’s actions. But thankfully, even as investigations continue, no other villains have emerged from this scandal.

7. Indians in Sports

Saina, You Crazy Diamond

Saina Nehwal has been India’s leading sportswoman for a while. After completing a hat-trick of titles in June – Indian Open, Singapore Open and Indonesian Open — the shuttle queen won a   crucial gold medal at the Commonwealth Games to secure India’s second rank in the standings.

In 2010, the talented Indian became world No. 2. Since her debut four  years ago in Melbourne, Saina Nehwal’s career graph has sky-rocketed with awe-inspiring pace. Her tough attitude and hunger for success is a challenge to the Chinese hegemony over the game.

Saina beat tough competition from shooter Gagan Narang to get the Khel Ratna award for the year. Next on her radar was the Asian Games gold, which she sadly couldn’t bring home. But she continues to shine on.

8. In Black and White: Anand Remains King

Viswanathan Anand continues to rule chess. The champion retained his World Championship title this year, beating Veselin Topalov for his third title in a row and fourth overall. After winning his first world title in 2000, Anand has continued to dominate.

One of the most popular chess players in the world, Anand has been around for three decades now, winning any honor worth winning in all formats — including the world title thrice in a row.

Besides these triumphs, Anand is hugely responsible for popularising chess in India. Before Anand, it was hardly a sporting option but youngsters now have been inspired by the King of Chess.

9. The worlds most watched event has been FIFA world cup for years and this year was no different. With the much coverage and predictions of the Octopus, Spain secured the World Cup for the first time with Andres Iniesta scoring the only goal.

 

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