From Jeakson Singh's goal for the history books to PV Sindhu's marathon final at the World Championships, here are ESPN India's top picks for the Moment of the Year. Readers can vote for their pick at the bottom of this story.
Jeakson Singh's goal for India at the U-17 World Cup
Ever since FIFA awarded the rights to host the U-17 World Cup in India, there were doubts on the viability of the host team. Winning was nearly never an option and even a goal appeared unlikely. After a 3-0 hammering against USA in their first league game of the World Cup, India were trailing 1-0 after 82 minutes against Colombia with the dire pre-tournament predictions appearing to hold true.
The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium erupted as Jeakson Singh jumped clear of the Colombian defense to nod India's first goal in any FIFA event off a perfectly-placed corner kick taken by Sanjeev Stalin. Though it only briefly held Colombia to a 1-1 score, as India conceded soon after, Jeakson will still be part of the record books.
In their words
"I was so excited looking at the fans who were shouting 'India, India' inside the stadium after I scored, I actually envisioned that goal before the World Cup. It happened just the same way that day."
- Jeakson Singh looks back at his goal.
Sindhu's World Championship final against Okuhara
Saina Nehwal had settled for bronze and what lay between PV Sindhu and a historic gold medal for India at the World Championships final was the tireless Japanese warrior Nozomi Okuhara. India had one silver and four bronze medals before this edition of the World Championships and the onus rested on the Rio Olympics silver medalist to make the leap. After the first game went Okuhara's way from a tense 19-19, Sindhu made desperate attempts at clawing her way back.
An epic 73-shot rally in the second game on Sindhu's fourth game point, had both players throwing their drained-out bodies on the line until Okuhara looped one into the net, collapsed on the ground and allowed a decider. The Japanese opened up a quick 5-1 lead in the third game and at match point she had Sindhu finding the net. Okuhara followed it up with a fine return on Sindhu's backhand. At the end of the titanic battle though, it really didn't matter whether a gold medal was lost or a silver won.
What they said
"I am upset. In the third game it was anybody's to win at 20-all. Everyone aims for gold and I was very close but that last moment changed everything."
- Sindhu on the missed opportunities in the decider.
Aizawl clinching the I-League with a 1-1 draw in Shillong
Aizawl FC travelled to Shillong for their last I-League match of the season on April 30 against Shillong Lajong, with title-contenders Mohun Bagan playing at home. The equations meant Mohun Bagan would win the title if Aizawl failed to get a point from Shillong. Lajong stunned Aizawl with an early goal in the first half.
Aizawl found the equaliser midway through the second half. Aizawl then had to survive a barrage of attacks from Lajong, and survived two late chances to draw 1-1 and clinch the title, sparking wild celebrations.
What they said
"I said only one thing to them at half-time: 'You will not get another 45 minutes. This is the last 45 minutes, just go there and you have to do extra effort.'"
- Coach Khalid Jamil, after the win.
Indian women win the hockey Asia Cup
Under new coach Harendra Singh, the Indian women traveled to Japan for the Asia Cup, with modest hopes. They hadn't had particularly encouraging results leading up to it, finishing eighth in the Hockey World League Semi-final. But a World Cup spot was on the line and for India, who'd failed to qualify for the last World Cup and finished ninth in the 2010 edition, it was a shot at redemption. China found a late equaliser through Tiantian Luo, who converted a penalty corner in the 47th minute, after India scored through Navjot Kaur in the 25th minute, leading to a 1-1 score at full-time, which saw the match pushed into a penalty shoot-out.
Captain Rani Rampal scored a brace while Lilima Minz, Navjot and Monica scored one goal each in the shootout, but it was goalkeeper Savita Punia who stole the show with her stunning save on China's final attempt to hand India the Asia Cup after a 13-year drought.
In their own words
"Every moment was tense but we did not drop our level at any point. Savita's save in sudden death was brilliant."
- Captain Rani Rampal on the victory over China in the penalty shootout.
Pardeep Narwal pulls off an eight-point raid in the PKL
Patna Pirates were up against Haryana Steelers in the second eliminator of the Pro Kabaddi League play-offs, with the loser going out of the tournament.
In what could easily qualify as one of the greatest raids in PKL's history, Pardeep inflicted an all-out on a six-man Haryana Steelers defence in Eliminator 2, scoring eight points from a single raid. Pardeep began by bending low and jumping away at the last second to evade two defenders, getting a touch on both; he then escaped a hip hold and an ankle hold before rolling away from another charging defender and, finally, escaping between Prashant Kumar Rai's legs to return to the safety of the mid-line. Pardeep had gotten a touch on all six defenders in the process and scored two bonus points as well from his massive raid. Yet, it all happened so quickly that it's only possible to process and appreciate what he managed to do by watching slow-motion replays.
In their own words
"We had the lead but that super raid got the match completely under our control because no matter how strong a team is if the players are sent out like that, then they start getting nervous which is exactly what Pardeep did in this match."
- Patna Pirates' coach Ram Mehar Singh on the eight-point raid.
India qualify for AFC Asian Cup in football
India won away to Myanmar, at home to Kyrgyzstan, and away to Macau. The return leg against Macau on October 11 in Bengaluru became a shoot-off for India, following a draw between Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar the previous day. India scored first, but Macau equalised. It took a strong second-half performance to win 4-1 and book their place in the Asian Cup with two games left.
What they said
"It felt so bad when we missed the qualification last time around. You don't get to play the best teams in Asia quite often so it's a great chance now. We are India, we will put our head down and work even harder."
- India captain Sunil Chhetri.