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Year-End Awards: Sporting moments that made us smile during the pandemic

Year-End Awards: Sporting moments that made us smile during the pandemic

Md Imtiaz

Published: 25 Dec 2020 11:01 AM GMT

The outbreak of COVID-19 across the world in 2020 had a pretty grim effect on sports. Since mid-March, most sports across the world and also in India were on hold. The men's T20 World Cup was due to take place in Australia this year from October but was cancelled. The biggest blow, however, came with the suspension of the Tokyo Olympic games 2020, which has so far been postponed to July 2021.

As the year drew to its fag end, sports slowly made its way back, of course with several conditions and protocols in check, and finally gave sports lovers around the globe to cheer for their heroes. Let's look back some of the sporting moments, we rejoiced as Indian sports lovers:

Neeraj Chopra's Olympic Qualification

Sixteen months! That’s how long India’s finest javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra was out of competitive action. While the likes of Hima Das were making waves among Indian fans in the pre-Olympics year, athletics was missing out on one of its favourite faces. The eerie silence from Neeraj’s end was probably the calm before the storm that was supposed to come.

With the turn of the year in 2020, the storm came crashing and invigorated a new fervour among Indian athletics fans. On a Tuesday night, Neeraj Chopra marked his comeback with a bang. A humongous throw of 87.86 metres at the Athletics Central North East Meeting, saw Neeraj achieving qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on his very first competitive meet since the Asian Games in Jakarta, 2018. After series of breakthrough performances in 2018, Neeraj was expected to shine in 2019 as well with a vision of earning the qualification mark for the Olympics a year ahead, along with some exciting shows at the IAAF World Championships, Diamond Leagues and even the Open Nationals. However, circumstances didn’t pan out to be what he had expected. A niggling injury on his elbow turned out to be the stumbling block.

Sania Mirza's comeback

India's tennis ace Sania Mirza had announced then that she would begin her comeback campaign at Hobart International in January 2020. She came back and conquered. The six-time doubles Grand Slam Champion and a mother to a baby boy, lifted the Women’s Doubles trophy at Hobart along with her Ukrainian partner, Nadiia Kichenok and added the perfect first page to her comeback story with this win. After a two-year-long hiatus from competitive tennis, Sania Mirza, the mother let the Hobart victory roar of her arrival on the scene as she seems stronger and more formidable than ever. Playing in the finals against the all-Chinese duo of Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai, one could hardly tell that Sania was out of touch from tennis since 2017. Her forehand was the weapon yet again and she looked in charge of it, shooting it across the opponent’s court with Nadiia by her side. It was this forehand that had come under the scanner with many tennis pundits suggesting she wields it in a different fashion for the fear of suffering an injury, in the past.

Indian cricket team reaching T20 finals

The Indian women’s team tried to exorcise the ghosts of the past in the T20 World Cup final against habitual winners Australia in front of a record crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on 8 March. India went into the final unbeaten after topping the group stage where they had beaten the four-time champions Australia in the tournament-opener. After the semifinal against England was washed out, the Harmanpreet Kaur-led squad advanced to their maiden summit clash, having finished first in Group A. The refreshing firepower of 16-year-old Shafali Verma at the top and consistency of India’s spin-heavy bowling attack had contributed massively to the team’s success in the competition. In a game that saw a record attendance of 86,174 spectators -- the biggest for a women's cricket match ever -- the Harmanpreet Kaur-led side was never in the hunt. Young sensation Shafali Verma dropped a sitter of Alyssa Healy in the very first over of Australia's innings and the Indian eves could never recover from that. The mighty Aussies posted 184/4 in their allotted 20 overs, in reply of which the Indian team could muster only 99 runs, before getting bowled in the final over of the match.

Nattakan Chantam's super fielding display

Thailand's Nattakan Chantam,, pulled off an outrageous piece of save during the final of Women’s T20 Challenge between Trailblazers and Supernovas. Such was the quality of her effort that even the opposition dugout was clapping while the commentator was heard saying ‘wow’.

On the first ball of the second over, Supernovas’ opener Jemimah Rodrigues tried to drive Sophie Eccleston’s delivery which was outside off. But all she could manage was to edge it behind the stumps. With Nattakan Chantam standing inside the circle, it looked like the ball would easily cross the boundary.

Nattakan Chantam, however, had other ideas. She started sprinting from short third man to stop the ball from crossing the boundary. And just when she realised that the ball might win the race, she put a stunning dive near the third man fence and flicked the ball back, thus saving two runs for her side.

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