It has been more than three years now but an eyewitness swears that it was the most emotional bear hug in sporting history. Kapil Dev and Wasim Akram embraced one another in a room in a Chennai hotel. Tears welled up in Akram’s eyes as his wife, Huma, had been admitted in a critical condition in a city hospital after the air ambulance flying them to Singapore had to make an emergency landing since her condition had worsened.
As the former all-rounders spoke emotionally, in chaste Punjabi, the onlookers were convinced they were watching a human drama without borders. They were two Punjabis, divided only by a barbed border, opening their hearts out. Indeed, the larger picture of our sport and sportspersons living in a paradoxical coexistence of brotherhood and rivalry was captured in that one tender moment.
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From the comfort of one’s drawing room, one could sense that all of India came to a standstill for six enthralling minutes on August 12 as it tracked wrestler Sushil Kumar’s 66kg class gold medal bout against Japan’s Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu in the Olympic Games. You could feel the collective energy of a whole nation willing Sushil Kumar on. There was no more exhilarating moment for Indian sport in all of 2012.
For just around a fortnight, as India ran most successful campaign – two silver and four bronze medals – in the quadrennial event, India was sold on Olympic sport. Be it the bronze medals won by Gagan Narang in 10m air rifle, Saina Nehwal in women’s singles badminton, boxer MC Mary Kom in women’s 51kg class and Yogeshwar Dutt in 60kg freestyle wrestling or the silver medals claimed by shooter Vijay Kumar in 25m rapid fire pistol and Sushil Kumar, India erupted in joyous celebration.
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Cast your emotion aside as we sit down to take stock of the challenge that India’s tennis selectors will face in the next few days. They will have to decide on the men’s doubles team that will represent India at the Olympic Games in London. And they have three wonderful achievers in Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi to choose from.
With only Leander Paes finding a place in the top 10 of the ATP doubles rankings now, dreams of two Indian pairs figuring in the draw have receded. But each of the three possible pairings is medal material and has the potential to be excitingly competent while delivering India that the Olympic men’s doubles medal that eluded Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi in four starts.
We must remember that the draw will play a big role in how long our London dreams last. Back in 2008, the Indian pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi came up against an inspired Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer, who raised his game after a devastating quarterfinal exit in singles. Hopefully, whichever pair gets picked will have the motivation to do well and will have a great run, irrespective of who it faces on the way.
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