Saina and Sania scale peaks, Advani dominates, Captain Kohli emerges

CRICKET: The year will be remembered more for the emergence of Virat Kohli as a Test captain than the team’s series triumphs in Sri Lanka and at home against South Africa. The defeats in the ODIs in Bangladesh and the Twenty20 match in Zimbabwe were pushed to the background once Kohli’s side bounced back from the setbacks in the shorter formats to outplay the South Africans in the spin-dominated Test series.

The retirement of Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan, the return of Shashank Manohar and the exit of N. Srinivasan from the BCCI, and the suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for two years from the Indian Premier League were the other off-the-field events that became part of an action-filled year.

TENNIS: Sania Mirza and Leander Paes had Martina Hingis for company in making tennis history this year. The Sania and Martina pair joined hands in March and ended the year with 10 titles, including two majors, while Paes and Martina won three of the four Grand Slam crowns. At 42, Paes continues to prove that age is just a number. Rohan Bopanna, along with Florin Mergea, added two titles and reached the World Tour Finals.

From the younger lot, Sumit Nagal won the junior Wimbledon doubles title and joined Sania and Paes in holding the winner’s trophy at the prestigious event.

GOLF: Anirban Lahiri was the biggest newsmaker among the Indian golfers this year. Two European Tour titles, besides five top-10 finishes, an appearance in each of the four majors, a place in the President’s Cup squad, and the securing of the PGA card for the next season made 2015 a truly path-breaking year for Lahiri. Though disappointing in his maiden appearance in the year-ending Hero World Challenge in Nassau, Bahamas, Lahiri did enough through the year to be consistent and reach 33 in world rankings.

Meanwhile, Chiragh Kumar received his share of accolades by beating the field in the Panasonic Open in New Delhi for a maiden Asian Tour title.

BADMINTON: Saina Nehwal finally managed to scale the peak and hold the World No. 1 spot on the way to winning the Indian Open title. She reached the title-clashes of the All England championship and the World Championship but on both occasions lost to Carolina Marin. On the brighter side, she did manage to beat the Spaniard in the World Super Series Finals but that was her only victory in the four-player league.

She was hampered by ankle and groin injuries and that impacted her consistency. P.V. Sindhu, too, had to deal with inconsistency though she defended the Macau Open titles with ease. Like in the past few seasons, Sindhu did win a few remarkable matches but undid the good work by falling to unheralded rivals. K. Srikanth, too, struggled for consistency after winning the Swiss Open and India Open. Making the final of the Indonesian Open was highly encouraging for the youngster.

Looking at individual results, H.S. Prannoy recorded a memorable victory over the legendary Lin Dan in the French Open and P. Kashyap upstaged World No. 1 Chen Long in the Indonesia Open.

CUE SPORTS: Pankaj Advani continued to bring cheer by winning the 15th World title. He won the IBSF billiards crown in September and added the IBSF World snooker championship in November. He is also the only cueist to triumph in the short (6-Red) and the long formats of snooker in the same calendar year.

FOOTBALL: Ending the year 166th in the world rankings, the Indian team didn’t gain much. Notwithstanding the hype surrounding the Indian Super League, the year saw India lose first five of its FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, including a 1-2 defeat to tiny nation Guam.

The 1-0 victory in Bengaluru over Guam in the return-leg did not help in redeeming the country’s bruised pride.