From crowning moments to shocking controversies – Patriot takes a look back at the moments that defined sports in 2018
1. France wins FIFA World Cup
The 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup held in Russia was nothing short of a roller coaster ride. While champions Germany were knocked out in the first round, heavyweight teams like Argentina, Portugal and Spain couldn’t even cross the 2nd round. The final clash saw an unlikely match between France and Croatia, a team no one thought would cross even the round of 16. France, in the end, won their second World Cup title since 1998, led by amazing performances by Kylian Mbappe, N’Golo Kante and Antoinne Griezmann. Croatia captain Luka Modric went home with the prestigious Golden Ball while England’s Harry Kane won the Golden Boot.
2. Super Kings win the IPL
The Indian Premier League 2018 was an important one because it marked the return of the two franchises —Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings — after their two year ban due to match fixing allegations. The Super Kings retained their core team at the auction, with MS Dhoni back in charge. They remained dominant throughout the season with great performances, especially from veterans Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu, and finally clinched their third title by defeating Sunrisers Hyderabad in the finals.
3. India shines at Commonwealth and Asian Games
For Indian athletes, 2018 will forever be remembered as a golden year with extremely good performances at both the Commonwealth and the Asian Games. At the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April, the Indian contingents clichéd a total of 66 medals — 26 gold, 20 silver and 20 bronze — thus registering their third best Commonwealth Games performance in history. India stood third in the medals tally behind Australia and England. Table tennis player Manika Batra was the star of the event – winning medals in all events she participated in – three golds and one bronze. At the Jakarta Asian Games, India registered their best ever performance with 69 medals — 15 gold, 24 silver and 30 bronze. From wrestling to rowing, table tennis to sepak takraw and athletics to bridge, India won medals at diverse sporting events.
4. The ball tampering controversy
Cricket was rocked by perhaps the biggest controversy in the game since the IPL spot fixing scandal. In the third day of the third test between Australia and South Africa in March, Aussie batsman Cameron Bancroft was seen on television rubbing the ball with a yellow paper-like substance. At the press conference, later that day, Australia captain Steve Smith admitted that they had tampered the ball with a yellow tape. But after an investigation by Cricket Australia proved that sandpaper was used to tamper with the ball, Smith admitted to it saying that it was a pre-planned action decided before the match. Later it was found that vice-captain David Warner too was involved in this incident. Thus, ICC banned Smith and Warner from international cricket for a year, and Bancroft for nine months. Then Australia coach Darren Lehmann, suspected to have been involved in the incident, also stepped down.
5. Modric’s Ballon d’Or victory
Croatia’s Luka Modric won football’s most prestigious individual honour, the Ballon d’Or in December, thus becoming the first footballer other than Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo to win the prize since 2008. The last time someone other than the two won the trophy was Brazil’s Kaka in 2007.Modric won the award owing to outstanding showing in the 2018 World Cup for Croatia and a Champions League winning campaign with Real Madrid. The award function was however marred with controversy, after female Ballon d’or winner Ada Hegerberg was asked to twerk onstage by presenter Martin Solveig.
6. Women’s Cricket controversy
At the 2018 World T20 semi-finals in Antigua, West Indies, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur had everyone by surprise after announcing that in-form and experienced Mithali Raj had been dropped from the playing eleven against England. India lost the match comprehensively as everyone, from fans to cricket experts blamed it on Raj’s suspicious omission. After a few days, Mithali Raj wrote an open letter to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri, where she stated that the team bus left without her and nobody informed her about her omission. Calling it the darkest phase of her 20-year long career, Raj said that coach Ramesh Powar had always ignored her during practice sessions, and it was him who excluded her in the semi finals. She even blamed BCCI women’s cricket chief Diana Edulji for corruption in women’s cricket. Ramesh Powar, on the other hand said that Mithali misused her ‘legend’ status and threw a lot of tantrums and that is why she benched her. Powar, was however removed from his position later.
7. Sindhu’s monumental win
PV Sindhu recently created history as she became the first Indian to clinch a gold in the season ending BWF World Tour in Guangzhou, China, the most prestigious prize in badminton. She beat Japanese shuttler Nozomi Okuhara 21-19, 21-17. This was Sindhu’s first trophy of the year. Last year, she narrowly missed the prize as she lost in the finals to Akane Yamaguchi.
8. Serena Williams’ outburst
At the US Open Finals in September against Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, who returned after a long break because of pregnancy, was charged a penalty point, after two warnings. The first warning came after Williams’ coach was seen giving instructions to her from the stands, and the second was after she smashed her racket on the ground after losing a point. Furious at being given a penalty, Williams yelled at the umpire saying that so many male players had been overlooked for doing things worse than her, and the umpire was being sexist in deducting a point from her. After she lost, she called him a ‘thief’ and even called for the authority to investigate his actions claiming that she lost because of the umpire . After she lost the match, the crowd erupted in boos. Osaka’s first ever grand slam win was overshadowed by this controversy
9. Real Kashmir’s dream run
In May this year, the unthinkable happened after Real Kashmir FC, a team from the disturbed state of Jammu and Kashmir became the first team from the state to qualify for the I-League after they won the I-League second division. Now, with 14 points from eight matches in the I-league, the men in yellow stand second in the league table, on the verge of becoming the Indian football champions.
10. Farewell, Legends!
2018 was the year when two of modern cricket’s greatest batsmen, South Africa’s AB De Villiers and India’s Gautam Gambhir retired from all forms from cricket in May and December respectively. For De Villiers, who holds the record for the fastest century in all three formats of the game, his announcement came completely out of the blue. Gambhir however left in style after he scored a century for Delhi in his last ever innings in the Ranji Trophy. West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo too retired, even though he will continue to play in all international T20 leagues.