The purpose of doing year-end recaps in sport is quite straightforward. You reflect on the year that went by, remember the good moments, rue the bad ones just one last time in hopes of moving on and look ahead.
It is an exercise in nostalgia, and in the sporting world, that is a powerful tool as we know all too well. Usually, you’d close the chapter on the year that was and the mind will pick perhaps one or two moments that will remain with you for a long time. A core memory or two. The rest will slowly but steadily get pushed down to the long-term library, eventually to gather dust. That’s how the brain works, as Inside Out told us. You can’t argue with an animated movie from Pixar.
2021, however, will be a little bit different. The recaps are still done for the same reasons... but how do you just pick a few highlights in Indian sport to carry forward with you when there are so many to choose from?
In the year that saw India register arguably the greatest ever comeback in a Test series and more memorable wins in the longest format in England for the men’s team, where Indian athletes helped record the country’s most successful Olympic Games and Paralympic Games campaigns in Tokyo, where the Indian women’s cricket team returned to the longest format in fine style, where some junior athletes across a few events gave hope for the future, it is impossible to pick what anyone’s top three or top five or even top 10 moments were.
Maybe that is just the overwhelming sense looking at Indian sport in 2021 through rose-tinted spectacles. It maybe not the case for everyone. But when you remember how barren 2020 was for sports fans, it often felt like there was more appreciation for these moments this year.
As for some of these, you can check out our selection of 12 from Indian sport here and a thread below. There are plenty more compilations and recaps online. Who wouldn’t want to read more about Gabba and the Indian comeback in Australia, the medals and heartbreaks from Tokyo Olympics, the sensational rush of medals at Paralympics. Go on, read a few of those you have been putting off. Close some of those open tabs.
All said and done, it might not be an exaggeration to say many of the biggest sporting triumphs in Indian sport in 2021 will potentially feature in debates and discussions around all-time great moments of the decade when someone sits down to compile a similar recap in December 2030.
Or maybe even a few legit contenders for all-time great moments, surely? Imagine that.
And in addition to these moments in and around the sporting arenas, 2021 also gave us plenty to digest away from the often maddening limelight. Simone Biles, Ben Stokes, Vinesh Phogat, Virat Kohli, Naomi Osaka – to name only a few – gave us reminders that beyond sport, athletes are human and empathy is the need of the hour. Superstars they may be, but humans they most definitely are. Mental health and prevention of abuse / discrimination in sport is still very much an under-explored, under-appreciated topic. But we took some important steps forward as a collective.
By pretty much every measure, 2021 was extraordinary for sport... athletes and fans alike.
And much like the athletes in their various arenas, we have all won some and lost some battles over the last year. It may not all be happy memories... things were rather bleak for a long time (perhaps still are). Covid-19 was a near constant factor in everything, from our daily lives to the sporting events that happened around the world. Olympics and Paralympics without fans were surreal. One can only hope such extraordinary times are still only the exception and not the norm going forward.
Ultimately, as a few wise humans have already noted in the past, sport is maybe the most important thing of the least important things. We have all had reminders aplenty in the last two years that life is short, unpredictable. But what sports offers in such times is at worst, a distraction and at best, a source of inspiration or solace. And so we can look back at 2021, with a sense of gratitude, for providing us some memories to last a lifetime.
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