From HT- The challenge for us was not compiling a list of sporting icons because there are many but keeping it to 70 because that is what the occasion — India’s 71st Independence Day — demanded.
LESLIE CLAUDIUS (Hockey)
Perhaps apocryphal, but a story about him still does the rounds of the Kolkata Maidan showing that nearly 60 years after his fourth and final Olympic medal, the legend of Leslie Claudius shines bright. In the sunset of his career, India’s finest half-back had lost a lot of mobility but not his uncanny sense of anticipation. So, as he would go for an interception, he would keep saying aloud “Le Lega, Le Lega” (will snatch, will snatch) and it was usually followed by a triumphant “Le Liyia (have snatched).” Rarely have opponents been psyched thus by reputation alone.
MS DHONI (Cricket)
Who would have thought that this young man from Ranchi making a living as a TTE at the Kharagpur railway station would be the first captain in the history of the sport to win all ICC global events? That happened when MS Dhoni bagged the 2013 Champions Trophy after taking India to the 2007 World T20 title and the 2011 World Cup which was also the first time a host country won the 50-over championship.
SACHIN TENDULKAR (Cricket)
This is the story of a man who lived his life between 22 yards of a cricket pitch and had a nation in thrall. For one day short of 24 years. And when he left, it was with an impromptu farewell speech that has over 5 lakh hits on YouTube. Hours later, it was announced that he would be conferred the Bharat Ratna. From November 15, 1989, when he began batting for India to when he finally gave up, the country went through eight Prime Ministers and five Presidents. In that time, Sachin Tendulkar had scored 34,357 runs in 664 matches for India including 100 international hundreds. He also took 200 international wickets and scored the first double hundred in ODIs.
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LEANDER PAES (Tennis)
From 1992, there hasn’t been a single edition of the Olympics that hasn’t had Leander Adrian Paes. But that would just be a marker in the breadth of this man’s achievements. In 1996, he ended a 44-year wait for India for an individual Olympics medal when he beat Fernando Meligeni for the men’s singles bronze. It took him to an elite club of athletes whose parents too have been Olympic medallists. A former junior US Open and Wimbledon singles champion and a former junior world No. 1, Paes went one shy of the medal round with Ramesh Krishnan in the 1992 men’s doubles competition in the Barcelona Olympics.