Introducing the Top 20 Moments in Indian Sport

Collating a list of the top 20 moments in Indian sport is both an exercise in celebration and an invitation to argument. How can achievements by individuals be rated against those of teams? How can athletes be ranked across generations, competitions, genders? What marks greatness - results alone or impact of personality?

Do the vast distances of history unfairly blur the past when it is regarded against the high-definition sharpness of modern sporting achievement?

ESPN India decided to go down this potentially tricky road as a means of saluting the richness, variety and breadth - often overlooked - of India's sporting history.

When the idea first came into being, we on the site's staff drew up our own personal lists of top 20 Indian sporting moments and then had a lengthy debate. We were each surprised by what the others among us remembered as significant, and there were passionately argued reasons for each nomination. The initial (very) longlist went way beyond 75, and before we made up out a shortlist for a jury, we believed we had Indian sport covered.

We then reached out to our jury - competitors and achievers, pioneers across disciplines and thinkers about sport at large, as well as respected journalists across a range of sports. They informed us about what and whom we had left out, arguing equally forcefully over events and people.

Which of the Olympic hockey golds should feature on a shortlist: the first ever? The first by India as an independent country? Or the one where they beat Pakistan in 1964? Can you leave out India getting to the 1966 Davis Cup Challenge Round against Australia, the strongest Davis Cup team in the event's history?

If WWE fans heard the stories about the Great Gama, they would gawp. How could anyone forget the peerless Sriram Singh, whose 800m record still stands? Or the charismatic, cool snooker player "OB" Agarwal, who broke the stranglehold the Anglo-centric nations had on the World Amateur Snooker Championship in 1984 and was claimed by cancer before he was 40?

Finally all the jury rankings were in and each sporting event given points based on where it featured on a jury member's ranking system: 20 points for each No. 1 ranking, 19 for a No. 2, and so on. Our top 20 were arrived at by adding up these points.

We discovered that while Indians might be considered sluggish recorders of their athletic history, our individual memories endure beyond the erosion that time inflicts and the fatigue that cynicism brings. It is why the power of KD Jadhav's Olympic medal in 1952 lives through the ages.

No matter who has finished in the top 20 or outside it, this compilation of the Top 20 Moments in Indian Sport has been revelatory, inspiring and humbling to us.

One of our jurors, golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, was competing in an event in Mauritius when we tracked him down for his list. Jeev told us he found it tough to draw one up, saying, "They are each of them champions, winners in their own fields; to rank them by numbers, that feels unfair - it's just not fair." We appreciated the sentiment - and began debating all over again.

Whether you agree or disagree with the rankings, we hope you enjoy reading the stories and remember some of India's most astonishing athletes and the history they created.


Tom Alter, actor, sports enthusiast and writer. K Arumugam, veteran hockey journalist. Sambit Bal, editor in chief, ESPN India and ESPNcricinfo. Vasudevan Baskaran, captain of the Indian hockey team at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Bishan Singh Bedi former India cricket captain. Rohit Brijnath sportswriter with the Straits Times and co-author of Abhinav Bindra's autobiography, A Shot at History. Venkatesan Devarajan, Indian boxing bronze medallist at the 1994 World Cup in Bangkok. Rahul Dravid, former India cricket captain; coach of the Under-19 team. Cedric D'Souza, former coach of the Indian hockey team, currently head coach of the Austrian team. Gulu Ezekiel, veteran sportswriter and collector of sporting memorabilia. Michael Ferreira, three-time world amateur billiards champion. Jayaditya Gupta, executive editor, ESPN India and ESPNcricinfo. Gaurav Kalra, senior editor, ESPN India and ESPNcricinfo. Novy Kapadia, Indian sports broadcaster and journalist. Manisha Malhotra, former national tennis champion and Asian Games silver medallist. KP Mohan, veteran sports journalist specialising in athletics and other Olympic sports. Jaidip Mukerjea, former India Davis Cup captain; member of the 1966 team that reached the final. Ashwini Nachappa, former national sprint champion and founder of the Clean Sports India initiative. Aparna Popat, former Commonwealth Games badminton champion. Debayan Sen, senior assistant editor, ESPN India. Ronojoy Sen, author of Nation At Play: A History of Sport In India. Geet Sethi, Nine-time world billiards champion, Asian Games gold medallist. Charu Sharma, commentator; founder of the Pro Kabaddi League. Sanjay Sharma, former badminton player; currently a commentator on the sport. Suma Shirur, Olympic shooting finalist and Asian Games and Commonwealth Games medalist. Jagbir Singh, hockey commentator and coach; played at two Olympics (Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992). Jeev Milkha Singh, professional golfer; first Indian on the European PGA tour. Mansher Singh, former national trap shooting champion and Asian Games triple-silver medallist. Rupinder Singh, foremost Indian commentator on athletics. Sharda Ugra, senior editor, ESPN India and ESPNcricinfo. IM Vijayan, former international footballer with 40 goals in 79 matches for India.