Aizawl FC, India's archery team, Mary Kom, Kidambi Srikanth, Pankaj Advani. That fairytale football title win, an incredible series of badminton matches, an improbable comeback and a staggering 18th world title -- all these are among the nominees for the first ESPN.in awards.
The ESPN.in Awards 2017, which recognise the best individual and team performances in Indian sport on a calendar-year basis, will run across 11 categories, a recognition of the increasing breadth and depth of Indian sport. The nominees come from sports as diverse as kabaddi, motor racing and archery -- the traditional, the modern and one that takes a tradition and updates it with cutting-edge technology. There's a hat tip to differently abled athletes, who've won countless medals for India at the biggest events, and to those who are on the verge of a breakthrough.
The awards also recognize that while cricket is the biggest sport, other, seemingly minor, sports produce matches and moments that are imprinted in the fans' consciousness. Cricket is already covered by ESPNcricinfo's annual awards, announced yesterday, and so is not included in these awards.
The winners will be selected by a jury that includes some of the biggest names in the Indian sports fraternity: Abhinav Bindra, the only Indian to have won an individual Olympic gold; Bhaichung Bhutia, the best Indian football player of his generation; Anju Bobby George, the first Indian to win a medal at the Athletics World Championships; Rohit Brijnath, who has covered Indian sport at all levels for the past three decades; and ESPN's senior writer Sharda Ugra.
"It is an exciting time in Indian sport, with rising active consumption of multi-sport disciplines across the country," says Sambit Bal, editor-in-chief, ESPN South Asia. "The awards aim to increase the visibility and conversations around sports beyond cricket. The awards recognise individuals' and teams' performances and are also an acknowledgement of the widening perspective of Indian sports fans."
The first list of nominees, for Team of the Year, is here. The other categories will be made public every day, one category per day. The winners will be announced on April 2, two days before the Commonwealth Games begin in Australia.