To say that this has been an eventful year for Indian sport would be stating the obvious. The good was much more than the bad, the ups immeasurably better than the downs and if the mood is optimistic that 2018 will be a greater year even the most hard-boiled cynic will be in sync with that mood.

Cricket hogged the headlines more than any other discipline and not just because it is the country’s most popular sport. The Indian team ran up the kind of performances that had been beyond any other squad in the past. Nine consecutive Test series victories put them on par with the world record of the Australian team of 2005-2008. It didn’t matter if six of the wins were at home and the three away triumphs were in Sri Lanka (twice) and West Indies. They got the better of strong opponents at home notching up one emphatic victory after another and that was not something that could be just dismissed with a shrug. The yearend ranking of No 1 in Tests and No 2 in ODIs is symbolic of one of the best years in the history of Indian cricket.

In keeping with the performance many players were ranked among the leading cricketers in the game and occupied the top slots in the ICC rankings. The batting exploits of Virat Kohli were of the eye rubbing and mind boggling variety and he set a number of world records. For once the bowling matched Indian cricket’s traditional strength – the batting – and the attack wore a balanced look with both pace and spin being among the wickets.

The national football team did nothing really of note though they managed to rise a few places in the FIFA rankings to 105 by year end. But the major talking point was the conduct of the World under-17 tournament at various places in the country – the first time India had the honour of hosting a FIFA competition. From all accounts the tournament was a success.

It was widely watched by spectators and a worldwide TV audience and the success spoke highly of the organizational capabilities of the AIFF even if the team itself were not unexpectedly eliminated at the group stage. It was however hoped that the conduct of such a major event would give a tremendous fillip to the sport in India but this will be known only in the near future.

Indian hockey enjoyed a fairly eventful year with the most notable performance coming in December when the team won the bronze medal in the Hockey World League finals at Bhubaneshwar. It was notable for more reasons than one. For one thing the competition was strong with all the hockey superpowers taking part including Australia, Germany, Spain, Holland, Argentina and Belgium.

Secondly it was achieved by essentially a young team which of course gave rise to be optimistic about the immediate future of the game in the country. After a disappointing outing at the Rio Olympics the team was rebuilt under the new chief coach Sjoerd Marijne who replaced Roelant Oltmans during the year. With the World Cup, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games all slated to be held next year it was important to end the year on a heartening note.

In tennis the focus was on the Indian team trying to qualify for the -World Group but as in so many years in the past this final tough step just eluded the squad. They lost narrowly 3-2 to Canada at Edmonton but the result raised hopes that India would make it to the prestigious World Group sooner rather than later. The promise of Ramkumar Ramanathan and Yuki Bhambri was there for all to see and as team captain Mahesh Bhupathi put it ''the two should be in the top 100 sometime next year’’. Also with Syketh Myneni and Rohan Bopanna around India certainly have a squad that can claw back into the World Group ere long.

Badminton of course continued to be the focus of interest among numerous Indian sports lovers and it was just because of the exploits of PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. The men players too joined them in winning Super Series titles and rising up the IBF rankings and by year end the sport enjoyed unprecedented popularity even as Indian players were rated as among the best in the world. Led by Kidambi Srikanth who rose to be world No 2 the men showed that they could hold their own against higher ranked players from superpower countries in various Super Series competitions and the result was the best phase in the history of Indian badminton.

Yes, there was one Prakash Padukone in the 80s and one Pullela Gopichand almost 20 years later but never before has a five man army from India descended on the international badminton scene so successfully. Epitomizing this has been the success story of Srikanth who in November won back to back Super Series titles with the Denmark Open and the French Open. Astonishingly it was the second time during the year that the 25-year -old from Hyderabad performed this feat.

In June he had won consecutive Super Series titles at the Indonesian Open and the Australian Open. With four titles for the year he surpassed the record of Nehwal who was the first Indian to win three Super Series titles in 2010. The depth in Indian badminton is underlined by the fact that in June there were three players in the top 15. By September there were five in the top 20 with HS Prannoy, Sai Praneeth, Sameer Verma and Ajay Jayaram joining Srikanth in the top rung.

Sindhu and Saina in the meantime did nothing to tarnish their growing reputations around the international circuit particularly the former who won two Super Series titles besides making the final of the world championship and the year-ending World Super Series finals in Dubai and being No 3 in the world rankings with Saina also making the top ten.

It was quite a spectacular period for Indian golf and the culmination of a great year came in December when Shubhankar Sharma won the Joburg Open sanctioned jointly by the European and African Tours. It was the 21-year-old Chandigarh pro’s first international title making him the youngest Indian to triumph on a European Tour event.

Other than making him richer by 191,532 dollars (Rs 1.23 crore approx) the victory earned Shubankar a place at the prestigious British Open next year, a slot given to the top three in Johannesburg. Shubhankar finished the event with an impressive score of 24 under 264 and the win was even more special for the talented young Indian as he won in the country of his idol Ernie Els who he met as an eleven-year-old boy at the Delhi Golf club in 2007.

The victory made Shubhankar the fifth Indian to win a title on the European Tour after Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Anirban Lahiri and SSP Chawrasia. And before Shubhankar Chawrasia, Shiv Kapur (two), Gaganjeet Bhullar and Ajeetesh Sandhu were the other Indians to win international titles this year making it a really eventful year for Indian golf.

By his own lofty standards Viswanathan Anand had a rather quiet year. The five time world champion might have slipped to ninth in the rankings but during the year he did enjoy the special achievement of finishing in the top ten for 20 consecutive years. And though he turned 48 he still remained a feared opponent and respected player. Another prominent face of Indian sport Mary Kom too showed that age was no bar in winning bouts. At 35 the mother of three won the gold medal at the Asian Boxing Championships defeating Kim Hyang-mi of North Korea in the title clash at Ho Chi Minh city.

Indeed as far as Indian sportswomen were concerned 2017 could well be a watershed year. Besides the feats of the established stars like Mary Kom, Sindhu and Saina, women in other sports too made their presence felt in no uncertain terms. At the Asian athletics championship in Bhubaneshwar Indian women won six golds helping India to finish at the top of the medals table pushing traditional powerhouse China to second spot.

The Indian team won the SAFF football title while the Indian basketball team beat Kazakhstan 75-73 in a thriller of a final to climb to division A of the FIBA Asia Cup at Bangalore. And to bring further cheer was the heartwarming performance of the cricket team with the women finishing runners up to England at the ICC World Cup at Lord's.