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SportsCafe’s best moments of the year

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SportsCafe’s best moment of the year

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SportsCafe’s best moments of the year

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SportsCafe Desk

12/31/2020

2020 has been a year like no other and a start to the decade like few expected. Lockdowns, a global pandemic, people stuck inside their homes but despite the world frozen on the spot, there have been moments that have stuck inside everyone’s mind that have helped us forget it all.

In a year full of darkness, lockdowns and a global pandemic, there have been glimpses of pure genius, displays of inspiration and courage and moments of magic. And as the year draws towards an end, we here at Sportscafe have picked out favourite moments in arguably the most chaotic, insane and turbulent time in sports history. From cricket taking a stand to a mere hug between Justin Langer and Joe Burns to Erling Haaland making one remember why they like football so much.

Cricket takes a stand and how!

 © Getty

That glorious morning of July 8, 2020. The buzz in the air hits the roof and everyone was glued to the TV Sets as if it was a World Cup final. However, the moment was nothing less than that and everyone watching felt it. After a pandemic-forced break, cricket was making its way back with a Test match between England and West Indies. Oh Lord Finally Finally!! 

But that was just half the story. Because what had happened before the game started would make a cricket fan proud. Michael Holding and Ebony-Rainford-Brent delivered two of the most powerful speeches with Holding’s monologue shredding the “All Lives Matter” rants to rest. As it was a pure spectacle, both the teams and match officials took the knee on the field to show their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and took the pledge to eradicate one of the biggest issues of that plagues the human race. 

And after what had happened in the US earlier this year, this seemed like a statement as loud as sky and Cricket was finally taking a stand. Nothing would move me more than that gesture in the entire year.

Ruturaj Gaikwad’s ‘smile’ for the camera after overcoming 2020

Man of the match for his 65 runs off 51 balls (four boundaries and three sixes) against RCB

By - Aakash Sivasubramaniam

 © IPL

CSK’s season was plagued, first with controversies of players opting out of the tournament and then with injuries throughout the course of their season. But when Suresh Raina pulled out of the tournament, CSK were very sure of replacing him with the talented Ruturaj Gaikwad, who had proved his worth in the Indian domestic T20 competition. Isn’t that exactly the moment when 2020 does what it does and leaves us distressed?

The right-hander tested positive for the coronavirus and was ruled out of the opening fixture. When he was available, he couldn’t live up to his potential in the middle-order and was later dropped.  So this sets the context for what’s coming ahead, Ruturaj’s second innings but this time as an opener. Even then he couldn’t live the bill, with a duck in his first innings. That led to Dhoni’s statement of ‘no-spark’ which triggered a massive rift on Twitter but left the youngster unfazed.

In his very next game, against rivals Royal Challengers Bangalore, he walked out - calm and composed - put on a commanding display, on the front foot, back foot and leaving the fans with a standing ovation. What’s better? He won the game for the franchise, finished the game alongside MS Dhoni and collected the Man of the Match award like a little kid, with smiles all over his face. This is what dreams are made of and eventually culminated in a smile that sums up 2020. 

Suryakumar Yadav's 'Main Hoon Na' celebration

RCB vs MI, Abu Dhabi, IPL 2020

 © Twitter

"When I'm here, why fear?" Suryakumar Yadav's GOLD celebratory moment after winning against RCB with a 43-ball-79* was one of the most epic cricketing moments of 2020. It was an innings where he took on the world's leading cricketer, Virat Kohli, in a stare-fest when the RCB skipper tried to intimidate him with his presence. But SKY's self-belief for an uncapped player spoke a thousand-word story about his mindset and readiness to conquer anything that comes in the way of winning for his team. In a star-studded Mumbai team which has Rohit, Kock, Hardik and Pollard, for an uncapped player to exude such chutzpah with his celebration or otherwise shows that he's a player ready to take more stern challenges and graduate in his career.

How does a normal, average person react to rejection or disappointment? Carry a sad face, do things with less vigor, consider rejection as something exclusive, keep on harping and regretting what happened. SKY also taught budding cricketers or even a layman a life lesson with his knock and gesture. That when non-selection/life hits you hard, instead of looking down, and going through motions - take more responsibility, challenge your comfort zone to new levels, and channelize all the anger, agony, negativity, disappointment, dejection into a match/life-winning knock/moment.

Mohun Bagan lifts second I-League trophy

By - Sounak Mullick

 © Mohun Bagan

Mohun Bagan fans have had two moods in 2020, one before January 15th and the other after January 15th. The merger with ISL champions ATK was received with mixed emotions - on one side of the coin was relief from the fear of missing out on participating in the top-flight league, and on the other was the fear of an existential crisis. What could have been an outburst after the so-called ‘historic’ move did not even take off due to two reasons - Bagan’s performance during the then on-going I-League and the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Intentionally, we, as Mohun Bagan fanatics, have always overlooked the negative vibes coming from all corners - instead we were interested in the I-League, with us within sniffing-distance of a second title. 10th March, 2020 - mark the date, was the ‘Mariners’ home match against Aizawl FC at the Kalyani Stadium, with the possibility of suspension of the league owing to the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic brewing in the background. It was a simple equation - Mohun Bagan had to win the match to win the league, even if any other matches were not played following that day. 

The 80th minute strike from Papa Babacar Diawara was more than enough in the end, but the overflow of emotions after the final whistle can be compared to none, especially after the emotional turmoil we’ve been through the past couple of months.

The hug that healed months of hidden pain

By - Anirudh Suresh

 © Twitter

Joe Burns entered the India series with scores of 0, 10, 11, 4, 0, 0 and 1 next to his name. To say he was “out of form” would be a grave understatement. He was, for a whole goddamn month, the most hated man in Australia. Journalists, experts, fans  - you name it, everyone despised and dreaded the sight of him on a cricket field. Justin Langer could have earned free brownie points by dropping Burns but he didn’t. He instead chose to work with and on his pupil, rigorously, shutting every outside noise which came his way. 

Many considered it unforgivably stupid, a few, contrarily, ballsy. On Day 3 of the Adelaide Test, Burns repaid Langer’s faith in him, albeit momentarily, by outscoring the entire Indian team, after which he shared an emotional moment with his coach and mentor.

That hug defined what life, at the end of the day, is all about: trust, hope, faith and loyalty. It showed that, even in the darkest of times, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel and signified that redemption will always be there or thereabouts. Most importantly, though, it humanized a cricketer who’d been viewed as a machine and paraded as if he were a criminal. Everyone needs a Justin Langer in their life.

Erling Braut Haaland's moment of zen encapsulates football

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 PSG, 19th February 2020

 © Twitter

For many covering or even watching football years after they first fell in love with the game, it's difficult thinking back to why one ever actually started loving football. What actually turned them from mere passerby watchers to people who actually devote entire weekends to this sport? What flicked that switch many a year ago that saw a childhood filled with windows broken, David Beckham’s free-kicks recreated (badly) and even the occasional trick. Even for me, a mere twenty years after I first started, it's tough to remember but then on 19th February 2020, before the world went to hell, Erling Braut Haaland brought everything back.

And all it took was a football being hit so hard that had there been nothing to stop it, it would have shattered the Westfalenstadion. But as the ball splattered into the net with two distinct sounds "Chunk Chunk", memories flew back, the Westfalenstadion erupted with joy and Erling Haaland was zen about it all. Because that’s what football is. A group of teenagers having fun on the lush green turf in Germany, prancing about, running up and down, hitting footballs with not a care in the world and living their dreams out.

Remove the crowd, the stadium and this could be placed into anyone’s head and very little would change. Hell with a crowd and a stadium, it's a fantasy for many and with a celebration that encapsulated football perfectly. A teenager in zen mode while his teammates and fans lost their minds around him, hailing him as one of the best for the future. 

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