Yes, he’s the one with a twirling moustache, tattoos and all. After making waves as a junior cricketer in 2004, he took nine years to make his presence felt in the top flight. After going back to basics and a makeover in his attitude towards both the sport and his life, 28-year-old Dhawan has emerged a major force in Indian cricket. He began his Test career with 187 against Australia in March — the highest score by an Indian debutant. He continued that tremendous form into ODIs, scoring five centuries – the most in the calendar year – and amassed 1,162 runs at an average of 50.52 and a strike rate of 97.89.
Eighteen-year-old Pusarla Venkata Sindhu managed to emerge out of the shadow of Indian badminton’s towering Sania Nehwal. In August, she became the first Indian woman to win a medal – bronze -- in singles at the World Championship. It was also first by an Indian since Prakash Padukone won in 1983. Standing 5’10” tall, this lanky shuttler is emerging as one to watch out for. The Hyderababdi, who trains at the Gopi Chand Academy, reached her career-best world ranking of 10 this year and it appears like it’s only a matter of time before she breaks into the top five.
The ageless wonder of Indian tennis. His boyish charm as well as his athleticism on the court are as fresh as they were when he turned pro. The year 2013 will be special for Paes as he turned 40 and also became the oldest to win a Grand Slam title in the Open era, pocketing the US Open doubles trophy partnering Radek Stepanek. It was Paes’s eighth Grand Slam doubles title and 14th overall. He will be 41 soon, but he is not done yet. He has hinted that his aim is 2016 Rio Olympics. Going by his years so far, it doesn’t appear too ambitious.
You might never have heard of him, but he’s been as much of a hero this year as the others on this list. Fighting against all odds, para-athlete Devendra Jhajharia created history by becoming the first differently-abled Indian to win gold at the javelin throw event at the IPC Athletics World Championships in July. Jhajharia was eight when he lost an arm being accidentally electrocuted.
It didn’t seem to affect him, though. An Olympic medallist, the 32-year-old is a Grade IV employee in the Indian Railways who is still searching for some sort of recognition. The world champion deserves better, isn’t it?
So, this pin-up boy of Indian cricket has an unenviable task. To fill the void left at No.4 by none other than Sachin Tendulkar. And so far, the 25-year-old has not disappointed. In the first after the maestro’s retirement, Kohli scored 119 and 96, that too against the formidable South Africa at Wanderers. In the Tests this year, he averages 62.11 with two hundreds. He averages 52.83 this year in the ODIs with four hundreds to his name. Kohli is also emerging as a safe bet for the advertisers with his endorsements rivalling legends like Tendulkar and MS Dhoni. An heir apparent? Wait and watch.