New Delhi: As India gear up to celebrate the 75th Independence Day on August 15, 2021, we at india.com take a look at some of the greatest Indian athletes to have ever taken the field for the country. While there are several athletes who have made India proud in the past 75 years, we have compiled a list of eleven athletes who have had a major impact on the sporting population of the country.Also Read - Sunil Gavaskar Backs Rohit Sharma to Replace Virat Kohli as India's Next T20 Captain; Picks KL Rahul as His Deputy
Here’s is our XI comprising of the greatest Indian athletes post-independence:
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- Kishan Lal: Born in Mhow, a cantonment in the Indore district in Madhya Pradesh, Kishan Lal was possibly the greatest inside forward/right-winger of India. Lal captained the India hockey men’s team in the 1948 Olympics that went on to win the first gold medal of independent India. “Many times, I would think he would score but invariable he would pass the ball to inside forwards or the centre forward to do the finishing touch,” said Gian Singh, a recipient of the Victoria Cross and Param Vishisht Seva Medal.
- Milkha Singh: Also known as The Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh brought a sense of pride among a lot of Indians and came agonisingly close to winning a bronze medal in the 400m final at the Rome Olympics. Having seen the horrors of the partition, Milkha remembered his father saying “Bhaag Milkha, Bhaag” in an attempt to save his life. Milkha never stopped after that and had single-handedly put Indian athletics on the world map.
- Sunil Gavaskar: Widely regarded as one of the greatest opening batsmen of all time, Sunil Gavaskar was the original little master of India. Gavaskar stood tall in an era when the Indian batting was largely insipid against fast bowlers. The little master ended his career as the highest run-getter in Test matches.
- Kapil Dev: At a time when India were largely dependent on spinners, Kapil Dev brought an air of freshness to the Indian side and was possibly India’s first-ever fast bowling all-rounder to have played the game. Also known as the Haryana Hurricane, Kapil Dev captained India to its first-ever World Cup win against the mighty West Indians and ended his career as the highest wicket-taker in Tests (434 wickets). He is also regarded as one of the finest all-rounders the game has ever seen.
- PT Usha: The Queen of Indian track and field, PT Usha made an entire generation of young women believe that an Olympic medal isn’t just a distant dream but a reality. As luck had it, she fell short by 1/100th of a second at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics but that’s just a mere statistic. In the larger context, she had laid the foundation for the younger generation to dream of an Olympic medal in the track and field category. That hope is now a reality with Neeraj Chopra winning the gold in Athletics in the Tokyo Olympics.
- Mary Kom: There isn’t a name bigger than Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom in Indian amateur boxing, having won the World Amateur Boxing Championship six times and remains the only female boxer to have won a medal in each of the seven World Championships. She is also the only boxer (male or female) to have won eight World Championship medals. Now add to that the Olympic bronze medal she had won in the London Olympics. She has lived up to the name ‘Magnificent Mary’ given to her by all means.
- PV Sindhu: If PT Usha is the Queen of Indian track and field event, then PV Sindhu is the Queen of Indian badminton and there is every possibility of her going down as one of the greatest Indian Olympians, having already won silver in the Rio Olympics and bronze in the Tokyo Olympics. To add to that, another five World Championship medals and it already looks like a colossal effort.
- Leander Paes: Regarded as one of the greatest doubles player in the history of tennis, Leander Paes holds the most doubles win in the Davis Cup. Paes also holds a rare feat of achieving doubles/mixed doubles double at the 1999 Wimbledon Championship. A career spanning over three decades, Paes had carried Indian tennis on his shoulders for the most part of his career and his partnership with Mahesh Bhupati, another legend in Indian tennis will go down as one of the greatest in the history of Indian tennis.
- Sachin Tendulkar: For a few, he is the greatest ever to have played the game and for some, he is an emotion that cannot be put in words. Having scored the most runs in international cricket in all forms and with the most number of centuries to his name in both Tests and one-day matches, Sachin Tendulkar is arguably the best batsman to have ever walked the planet. The late Peter Roebuck while travelling on a train between Shimla and Delhi once said that the train stopped at a station only because Tendulkar was on 98. “Everyone on the train waited for Sachin to complete the century. This genius can stop time in India!”
- Subimal Goswami: Also known as Chuni Goswami, he is arguably the greatest Indian sportsperson, just going by the mere fact that he was a great footballer and an equally good cricketer. Goswami led the Indian football team at the 1962 Asian Games and won the gold for India. He was also a first-class cricketer for Bengal and captained his team to the final of the tournament in 1971–72. “Easily one of India’s best all-round sportsman with ball sense in his blood. May his soul rest in peace,” tweeted Ravi Shastri when Chuni Goswami passed away at the age of 82 last year. Chuni was the jack and the master of all trades in every sense of the term.
- Sushil Kumar: Having won the bronze in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Sushil Kumar followed it up with a silver in the 2012 London Olympics and will go down as one of the greatest Indian wrestlers to have ever set foot on the mat. Sushil had also won the gold medal in the 74 kg division at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.