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Many celebrated Indian sportspersons failed to live up to expectations this year. The Pioneer lists some prominent names
Yuvraj Singh: Out of Favour
2017 may well turn out to be the year when the ‘prince of cricket’ represented India for the very last time. Though the year started well for him – he struck a memorable hundred against England in January – but as the year went on, Yuvraj started looking like a liability for the Indian team rather than strength. No longer useful as a spin bowler, Yuvraj’s fielding prowess has also disappeared owing to fitness issues. Under the Kohli-Shastri regime which emphasizes the fitness of players, Yuvraj could not survive for long and while he continues to fight for a return, it seems unlikely.
Viswanathan Anand: Lion in winter
The legend of Indian chess Viswanathan Anand had to endure a tumultuous year which further suggested a terminal decline for the former world champion. While he still hasn’t given up the hope of reclaiming the world title, the year saw him losing in the second round of the Chess World Cup and finishing last in the Chess Grand Prix. Consequently he is out of the 2018 championship cycle which means he has no chance of getting a shot at Magnus Carlsen’s world title. With the 22-year old Vidith Gujrathi showing encouraging performances, it’s possible that he may be the player to watch out for in the coming days. But then again, writing off a great like Anand is perilous.
Bajrang Punia: Reality check
With two massive Bollywood blockbusters centered on wrestling released last year, fans expected real-life stars to make the country proud in 2017 but there was disappointment on that count. The Indian contingent at the World Championship returned home empty handed and the biggest disappointment was in the form of Bajrang Punia, the reigning Asian Champion, who bowed out of the event in the pre-quarterfinals itself. His victory in the Asian championship came in front of the home crowd in Delhi in May but all the hopes he raised were undone by his Georgian opponent in the world event.
Parupalli Kashyap: left behind
In an otherwise glorious year for Indian badminton, Parupalli Kashyap was the exception who had no great success to boast of. The Commonwealth Games champion had to restart after an injury kept him out of the game for some time. But as other and younger male players like B Sai Praneeth, Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy made waves, Kashyap receded into the background with no major titles to his name. He did reach the Final of the US Open but lost to HS Prannoy. Whether he can regain the form which once saw him become the pre-eminent men’s singles player in Indian remains to be seen.
Sardar Singh: at the crossroads
Once considered among the best midfielders in the hockey world, Sardar ended the year being out of the national side. Ironically, this was also the year when Sardar received the prestigious Rajeev Gandhi Khel Ratna award. Concerns were raised about Sardar’s role in the team when former coach Roelant Oltmans publically said that he is slowing the game down for his team. Oltmans’ successor Sjoerd Marijne decided to shift Sardar to the defence from the midfield and he looked out of his depth playing this role in the Asia Cup. Consequently, he was dropped from the side for the Hockey World League Final. While the authorities still claim that he is among the plans and he was rested, not dropped, this year certainly was not an ideal one for him. With uncertainty over his position, many feel that we may have seen the last of Sardar in Indian jersey.
Neeraj Chopra: falling short
The 19-year old went into the javelin event at the World Athletics Championship as the world junior record-holder but ended up failing to even qualify for the Finals. Instead, it was another Indian, Davinder Singh Kang, who overshadowed his more fancied compatriot and finished 12th after making it into the Final od the event. With age on his side, a lot can be expected from Chopra in the future but for now he is left with questions about his technique and the difficulty of carrying success from the junior level to the senior one. He also spoke about the disadvantage of not having a personal coach. This issues need to be sorted out if he wants to achieve his potential.
Rahul Chaudhari: Pushed aside
The poster boy of Indian Kabaddi had to endure a miserable run both as an individual and as the captain of the Telugu Titans team in fifth season of the Pro Kabaddi League. He finished the season with less than 200 raid points and had to watch 20-year old Pardeep Narwal shatter his records one after another. His team finished second from the bottom in their group to add to the misery. His season was encapsulated in one desperate and hopeless solo tackle he attempted against Pardeep Narwal. With Narwal attacking the left flank, Chaudhari suddenly broke from his team’s formation and tried single-handedly to eliminate Narwal. Not surprisingly, he failed and had to return to the bench and, as he did for the rest of the season, watch as a helpless spectator his rival capture more points. This tackle was probably the result of his wounded pride as Narwal walked away with glory and records along with the adulation of the whole country, while Rahul was left wondering what went wrong for him and his team.
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