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For all those who doubted whether women’s cricket can be as exciting as the men’s version, Harmanpreet Kaur’s magnificent innings of 171 not out off just 115 balls in the women’s World Cup semi-final against Australia must have settled the issue. She secured her name in the history of the game by playing one of the greatest knocks by an Indian batter — man or women — and arguably the best in the history of the women’s game. Her merciless destruction of the Australian bowling attack made her as familiar a name among cricket fans as that of Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma and has inspired a whole generation of young girls to think about taking up the sport.
Virat Kohli: leading from the front
2016 was a hard act to follow for Virat Kohli considering his prolific run of form in that year. But Kohli did exactly that, hammering 6 ODI and 5 Test tons in the year including 3 double hundreds. The year also saw him take over from MS Dhoni as the skipper in the limited overs format and his success as a leader in Tests was replicated in the shorter versions as well. Under him, India won all series they played across formats, home and away, and also reached the Finals of the Champions Trophy apart from remaining the No 1 ranked Test side. Like 2016, Kohli was on a record-breaking spree this year and is now looking to establish himself as an all-time great.
Pardeep Narwal: record-breaker
Who would have thought that a 20-year old boy would emerge as the biggest star of PKL and completely overshadow giants of the game like Anup Kumar and Rahul Chaudhary. That’s exactly what Pardeep Narwal did and in the process raised the bar of performance to unseen heights in the 5th edition of PKL. Stats tell the story of his domination this season: 369 points, 18 super raids and 19 super 10’s which included 20+ point performances also. Not only did he dominate the entire season but also rose to the occasion in the Final by rescuing his team from precarious positions and getting them the PKL 5 title.
Dheeraj Singh: impenetrable
Indian football oversaw some major changes this year. The senior national team is on a 13-match unbeaten streak and broke into top 100 of FIFA ranking for the first time. But India under-17 boys took the limelight away from the men as India hosted the FIFA under-17 World Cup. The team failed to win any of their matches but Dheeraj Singh became crowd favourite with his series of marvelous saves in all the games. Although Jeakson Singh created history by becoming the first and only Indian player to score in a football World Cup, Dheeraj was the talk of the town.
Hardik Pandya: young gun
When a person is dubbed as the next Kapil Dev, you know he has done something right and Hardik Pandya could hardly do any wrong in 2017 as he proved his mettle in all three formats. His rise started in the IPL where he shone with both bat and ball. Afted being called up to the national side, he continued his brilliant run by playing many dazzling knocks filled with breathtaking stroke-play and also bowled at lively pace. He also made his Test debut and by scoring a hundred against Sri Lanka, gave India the all-rounder they have been looking for in that format. While comparisons with Kapil Dev may be slightly premature, there is no doubt that India have unearthed an extremely bright talent.
Vijender Singh: unstoppable
Vijender Singh began 2017 being unbeaten in his pro-boxing career and has finished it without a blemish. He had to endure a gruelling contest against China’s Zulpikar Maimaitiali which went down to the wire but Vijender somehow emerged as the winner and showed great sportsmanship by offering to return his opponent’s belt which he had won. He then faced Ernest Amuzu at the end of the year and proved himself by registering an easy win. He has already put other on notice by saying that he is aiming for the World title.
Rohit Sharma: ‘hit’man
Already established as one of the most devastating batsmen in limited overs cricket, Rohit added to his reputation by his consistent run of form this year in both ODI T20 formats which culminated in him scoring his third ODI double hundred and the joint fastest T20I hundred — taking just 35 balls to reach the three figure mark. He also showed his abilities as a skipper by leading Mumbai Indians to the IPL title and later in the year captained the national team to victories in both the ODI and T20 home series against Sri Lanka.
PV Sindhu: rising to the occasion
Olympic silver medallist Sindhu once again reigned supreme of the Indian badminton scene through impressive performances through the year. She avenged her loss to Carolina Marin in the Olympic gold medal match on home soil by defeating her in the Final of the Indian Open. She then reached the Final of the World Championship and took part in one of the greatest matches in the history of the sport against Nozomi Okuhara which she lost after an epic encounter. The final went down to th e decisive third set and lasted for one hour and 49 minutes. The match also started a rivalry betweent the two. Sindhu had her revenge by beating Okuhara in the Final of the Korea Open. The year ended with the Hyderabadi reaching the Final of the Dubai Super Series Finals and again missed the title by a small margin but once again proving that she brings her best in big tournaments.
Kidambi Srikanth: hot streak
India’s search for a consistent performer in the men’s singles division ended with one of his protégé’s Kidambi Srikanth achieving great heights in 2017. The 24-year old from Guntur joined an elite club of international players by winning four Super Series titles in the year – French Open, Denmark Open, Indonesia Open and Australia Open. In rankings, he climbed as high as the No 2 spot. Surprisingly, he suffered losses to B Sai Praneeth and HS Prannoy in the Finals of the Singapore Open Super Series.