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The 50 most influential people in Indian sport

Last updated on: February 5, 2010 12:48 IST

Business tycoons elbow out sports stars

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Sports Illustrated India's most influential people in Indian sport features a brewer, a sugar baron and a cement maker, elbowing out some of the country's biggest sports stars themselves.

What's more, the power brokers not only make the rules in India but are also wielding greater influence abroad, from cricket pitches to Formula One tracks.

While iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar tops the list, he is followed by Lalit Modi, chief of the Indian Premier League (IPL); Vijay Mallya, brewer and owner of Force India Formula One team, and Sharad Pawar, a sugar baron and president-elect of the International Cricket Council.

Others on the list include Mukesh Ambani, head of Reliance Industries the top private company, N Srinivasan, BCCI secretary and head of a cement firm and Pawan Munjal, head of Hero Honda Motors.

Sportsmen including world chess champion Viswanathan Anand and tennis superstar Leander Paes are much farther down on the list.

India has long been witness to the interplay of business and politics in sport, with industrialists patronising domestic cricket and football leagues, and ministers wangling for titles on the numerous boards for various sports in the country.

Click to check out Sports Illustrated India's top 50 most influential people in Indian sport:


Photographs: Reuters
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Tendulkar is sportsdom's ultimate god

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1. Sachin Tendulkar (Cricket Star)

Because he defines Indian cricket and is sportsdom's ultimate god.

Because, starting with his 1989 Test debut against Pakistan, after 1,100 Test runs and 1,200 runs in ODIs in the last 12 months, plus 27,000 runs and 45 Test centuries, Indian cricket revolves around him.

Because he is going to be a key factor in Mukesh Ambani's Indian Premier League (IPL) plans.

Because cricket administrators seek his opinion, politicians look for his approval and movie stars seem like film extras whenever he graces an awards function.

Because Brand Sachin is the highest grosser in endorsements and is India's highest taxpaying sportsman.

Because his one-billion fan base ensures his word is final in all matters relating to domestic and international cricket.


Image: Sachin Tendulkar

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Under Modi cricket economics have hit the roof

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2. Lalit Modi (Commissioner, IPL)

Because he has raised BCCI 's turnover seven-fold, from around $80 million a year to close to $1 billion. Because he is the only non-playing cricket icon who has fans mobbing him outside stadiums for autographs. Because he is the President and Managing Director of the multi-billion dollar conglomerate Modi Enterprises.

Because Time placed him at No 16 in their listing of Best Sports Executives in the World for 2008 and Forbes magazine describes the IPL as "the World's Hottest Sports League."

Because he has turned BCCI meetings and resulting press conferences into an exercise in ego mathematics since the early half of this decade. Because he brought IPL out of cold storage where it lay for almost five years and today the league is completely identified with him. Because under his guidance cricket economics have hit the roof with IPL deals signed worth Rs 7,200 crore.

Because he may achieve his not-so-secret ambition for IPL to stand on its own feet even though it is under BCCI 's management. Because he is the ultimate survivor, who outfoxed N Srinivasan and won last year's power struggle, retaining his job until 2012.

3. Vijay Mallya (IPL team owner, Royal Challengers)

Because he is India's richest sports boss and biggest liquor baron with a net worth of $1.2 billion.

Because he owns Formula 1 team Force India, the IPL team Bangalore Royal Challengers, the I-League teams East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and the United Racing and Bloodstock Breeders.

Because his flamboyance is legendary -- his yacht parties attract powerful politicians, actors and socialites worldwide who lobby to get a free ride on one of his private Boeing 747s for a weekend at his Monaco home or party at the Kingfisher Villa in Goa.


Image: Lalit Modi (left), Vijay Mallya

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India's captain cool is a hit with the fans

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4. Sharad Pawar (President-elect, ICC)

Because as former president of the BCCI, he was the ultimate arbiter in a national governing body often pulled apart by state politics and personal ambitions. Because he decimated the seemingly omnipotent BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya.

Because he is one of India's most powerful politicians, who narrowly missed becoming Prime Minister.

Because he is seen as the ICC's president in waiting and will be the de facto leader when the World Cup revisits India in 2011. Because BCCI became the world's richest cricket body under his leadership. Because his clout in cricket is enough to warrant diplomatic intervention when things went wrong for Indian players during the 2008 tour of Australia.

5. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India cricket captain)

Because he is one of the coolest cricket captains India has seen. Because he led India to glory at the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, CB Series of 2007-08 and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2008 with panache. Because he made history by taking India to the No 1 position in Tests.

Because his big-hitting reputation, his on and off-field composure, his ever-smiling demeanour and his superstar image have made him the darling of Indian cricket.

Because he was selected skipper of Wisden's first-ever Dream Test XI Team in 2009.

Because he is in the Forbes list of the top 10 earners in cricket and looks set to be Tendulkar's successor in terms of brand endorsements. Because he shows an uncharacteristic humility which has endeared him to fans.


Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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Gill steers away from controversy

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6. Shashank Manohar (President, BCCI)

Because he is the media-shy czar who runs Indian cricket's Kremlin, the BCCI. Because he is known to be a hardliner who makes tough decisions and carries a clean image. Because he uses his close proximity to Sharad Pawar to his advantage.

Because he was the brains behind the performance-linked pay for the players solution after the 2007 World Cup debacle. Because as the president of the world's richest cricket board, he has a pivotal role to play in the organisation of the 2011 World Cup to be held in the subcontinent. Because he has survived unscathed scandals like the greentop that led to India's defeat in the 2004 Nagpur Test match and the collapse of the VCA Stadium wall which killed 13 and injured over 70. Because he is an introvert, who plays his cards close to his chest and keeps everyone in the cricket world guessing.

7. M S Gill (Sports Minister)

Because he has continued to ensure transparency and accountability in various sports federations during his two terms as sports minister. Because he wages a daily battle to raise the profile of other games besides cricket.

Because he has cracked down on maintaining the age limit and exposed frauds in different disciplines. Because he has substantially raised the prize-money for the Rajiv Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards. Because he steers away from controversy while making sure his instructions are carried out to perfection.

8. N Srinivasan (Secretary, BCCI; Team Owner, Chennai Super Kings)

Because he is the BCCI secretary and leads the race for the board's top post once Shashank Manohar's term ends in 2011. Because he floated his own team in the IPL and his clout has grown immensely as a result. Because he also owns the Rs. 3,500 crore India Cements which is expanding into the biggest business empire in South India. Because he is also the president of the All-India Chess Federation.


Image: India Sports Minister M S Gill

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Kalmadi's clout remains undiminished

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9. Manu Sawhney (MD, ESPN / Star Sports Asia)

Because he established ESPN Star Sports as the world's No 1 cricket broadcaster. Because he broadened the exposure of the game by taking the ICC World Twenty20 to a record 189 territories in 14 European languages for the first time.

Because he broke the language barrier to take the 2006 FIFA World Cup to over 50 million fans in India, a 44 percent increase on the 2002 edition. Because he has successfully secured rights to events like Australian Open, Wimbledon, F1, and NBA. Because he saw the need for a standalone cricket channel, Star Cricket, and crushed competition by pumping in $2.25 billion to buy rights from the ICC. Because he recovered from the disappointment of not bagging the rights to the IPL by buying into the Twenty20 Champions League rights for a period of 10 years.

10. Venu Nair (President, World Sports Group)

Because he successfully led WSG's joint bid with Sony Entertainment TV to acquire the global media rights of the IPL in a 10-year deal valued at $1 billion. Because he convinced Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir to sign on for global commercial rights. Because he partners with the BCCI for the ground and naming rights to all Indian team matches. Because WSG holds sponsorship rights for the Commonwealth Games. Because he realised the future potential of golf in the country and acquired the media and sponsorship rights for the Indian Open.

11. Harish Thawani (Chairman, NEO Sports)

Because he became a media moghul after starting out with Super Hit Muqabla, a high-stakes Bollywood music-based countdown programme on Doordarshan. Because numbers are his game, shelling out $612 million to acquire telecast rights for all cricket matches in India for a period of four years in 2006 (this figure was later revised to $549 million after Nimbus was forced to share the match feed with Doordarshan). Because he has forked out a bank guarantee of $500 million to get the 2010-14 rights. Because he also owns two sports channels -- Neo Cricket and Neo Sports.

12. Suresh Kalmadi (President, Indian Olympic Association)

Because he is the classic survivor with the political instincts of a seasoned neta. Because he has managed to cling on to the job of president of the Indian Olympic Association since 1996. Because he has been an MP from Pune for 10 years.

Because he has ensured that despite the scandals in Indian sports and delays in preparations for the Commonwealth Games, his clout remains undiminished. Because he managed to manipulate his chances in the Hockey India elections with uncanny timing.


Image: Suresh Kalmadi

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Shukla is the crisis manager of Indian cricket

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13. Subroto Roy (Chairman, Sahara Group)

Because he was the first big spender on Indian cricket, sponsoring the national team by paying nearly Rs 100 crore in 2001. Because he single-handedly contributed to the BCCI's rise in fortunes, renewing the contract in 2005 at Rs. 300 crore. Because he leads the drive to promote Olympic sports like hockey, boxing, wrestling, shooting and archery. Because he exercises power over Bollywood stars and powerful politicians. Because he runs a $10 billion company where it is forbidden to address him by name.

14. Rajiv Shukla (Vice-President, BCCI)

Because he is the ultimate power broker in both Indian cricket and politics. Because he is an ex-journalist and Congress MP who is the face of the BCCI as its official spokesperson. Because he is seen as a close confidante of the Gandhi family and is a networker par excellence without ever having rubbed anyone the wrong way.

Because he is BCCI's pacifier in personality clashes, is a shrewd negotiator, and is, in effect, the crisis manager of Indian cricket. Because he has the trust of the players who believe he would put their interests forward in the best manner. Because he owns News 24 as well as couple of entertainment channels. Because he has everyone from Robert Vadra to Shahrukh Khan on speed dial.

15. Pawan Munjal (MD, Hero Honda)

Because he is the driving force behind some of sports' big-ticket events, leading the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. Because he sponsors some of the biggest cricket tournaments (IPL, T20 Champions League), cricket team (the Delhi Daredevils), the Indian Open golf tournament, 2010 FIH Hockey World Cup and may end up putting his brand on the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

16. Manjit Singh (CEO, Multi Screen Media)

Because he had the audacity and flair, not to mention the business acumen, to bet on the innovative Indian Premier League and win. Because as the head of Sony Entertainment Network, he acquired rights for the league in India in a $1 billion deal and left archrival ESPN Star Sports in the dust.


Image: Rajiv Shukla

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Anand's success spurred an entire generation to pick up chess

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17. Krish Srikkanth (Chief Selector, Indian Cricket)

Because he is the Charles Darwin of Indian cricket, whose job is to identify future stars. Because he was the first to bring BCCI's attention to players' low wages when he lost his captaincy in 1989 over match fees. Because as chairman of selectors, his disapproval may mean the end of a dream for a cricketer wanting to play for India. Because his judicious selections have meant an increase in bench strength for India, which bodes well for the team's performance at the 2011 World Cup. Because he is still remembered for his unorthodox batting which contrasted with Sunil Gavaskar's orthodox technique.

18. Viswanathan Anand (World Chess Champion)

Because he is the most celebrated global ambassador of Indian sport. Because his being at the top of the world rankings several times has spurred an entire generation to pick up chess and dominate sub-junior world chess. Because he is the first player in the history of chess who has won the world championship in all three formats: knockout, tournament and match. Because he is India's richest chess player, earning over $1 million every year.

19. Mukesh Ambani (CMD, Reliance)

Because he ponied up $111.9 million to buy the most expensive IPL franchise, the Mumbai Indians. Because as the boss of Reliance, his new ventures will generate enough money for him to be the world's most cash-rich businessman by 2012 with $66 billion. Because the Indians remain one of the biggest draws in the IPL despite its inability to win a title, all stemming from the fact that Sachin Tendulkar is on the roster. Because he plans to turn his attention to Olympic sports, which, in turn, will make him one of the biggest global names in sport.


Image: Viswanathan Anand

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Preity brings her dimpled stardom to the stands

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20. V Ram Reddy (Team Owner, Deccan Chargers)

Because he pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the IPL when the Deccan Chargers won the second edition after finishing last in the first season. Because he didn't let emotion rule over team interest when he decided to appoint Adam Gilchrist as captain. Because as media magnate and the owner of the Deccan Chronicle Group he created massive buzz for his team. Because his team's valuation has shot up by 40 percent.

21. Manoj Badale (Team Owner, Rajasthan Royals)

Because he had the foresight to buy the least fancied team in the IPL for $67 million. Because he backed the appointment of Shane Warne as captain/coach. Because his team's worth has risen to $140 million after its IPL-1 triumph. Because he gave away an 11 percent stake to Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra, thus ensuring a much needed glamour quotient for the team.

22. Srinivas Bommidala (Chairman, GMR Sports)

Because he is directly responsible for managing one of the most high-profile teams in the IPL. Because the Delhi Daredevils managed to make a profit despite the IPL's move to South Africa. Because his team has the best pool of Indian cricketing talent including captain Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Ashish Nehra. Because he has the backing of the mega-rich infrastructure company GMR Group. Because he convinced corporate brands like Hero Honda, UB Group and Reebok to come on board as sponsors.

23. Preity Zinta (Team Owner, Kings XI Punjab)

Because she is the first high-profile female owner of any sports team in India. Because she brings her dimpled stardom to the stands when Kings XI Punjab play on their home ground at Mohali. Because she doesn't mince words and is fully hands on in the running of the team. Because she had the guts to sack captain Yuvraj Singh and replace him with Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara.

Because she decided to educate herself in the rudiments of sports business by enrolling at the Harvard Business School to undergo a short executive course in negotiating and dealmaking. Because her team was the first to discover and sign the talented Australian Shaun Marsh. Because she is always there, cheering and motivating her team in every match. Because her presence as one of India's most bankable stars ensures ticket sales. Because she is the face of her team, despite the fact that its three other owners have invested more money than she has.


Image: Preity Zinta

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Jeev aims to stay on top until age 60

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24. Randhir Singh (Secretary, Indian Olympic Association)

Because he has a royal lineage which he uses to position himself as an envoy of sport. Because he is the voice and face of Indian sport on the International Olympic Committee by virtue of being a member since 2001. Because he spoke out against the working of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee and got them to delegate power to the sub-committees. Because he designed a National Club Games which would take sport right down to the village and district level. Because he is a six-time Olympian and one of the few sportspersons in full-time sports administration. Because he wants to clean up Indian sports and wishes that more players would come into full-time sports administration. Because he fought the shooting federation for better facilities in 1963. Because he has worked on his once-evasive image with the media.

25. Subhinder Singh Prem (MD, Reebok India)

Because he sponsors some of the biggest bats in the Indian cricket team: Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir. Because he can give any sportsperson a run for his money when it comes to fitness. Because he has helped Reebok grab a market share of 54 percent in india. Because the number of Reebok stores has grown almost seven times to 900-plus stores across the country. Because he has taken the company way ahead of his competitors. Because he made the fitness mantra a part of his company's philosophy.

26. Jeev Milkha Singh (Golfer)

Because he is India's best golfer. Because he aims to stay on top until age 60 and is concentrating on keeping his position as India's most influential ambassador of the sport. Because he has topped the Asian Order of Merit twice (2006 and '08) in addition to winning some of the major tournaments in the world. Because he is one of the highest earning sportspersons in the country, topping the Asian rankings for the first time in 2006, taking home $591,884. Because he followed that performance up with a $1.4 million haul in 2008, adding another 1.2 million for finishing 12th on the European Tour. Because his father, Olympian Milkha Singh, is one of the most powerful people in Indian sport. Because he is a role model for youth who have chosen the golfing green as their spiritual home.


Image: Jeev Milkha Singh

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SRK alone can guarantee a packed house

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27. Ravi Krishnan (MD, IMG)

Because he helped consolidate the IPL and Chennai Open having returned to IMG South Asia as managing director last spring. Because he staved off a challenge from the BCCI after it decided to terminate IMG's contract. Because he garnered the support of seven franchises and convinced BCCI to reinstate IMG as the league's promoting agency.

28. Shahrukh Khan (Team owner, Knight Riders)

Because he is India's biggest superstar, successfully corporatising Bollywood and sports with his purchase of the Kolkata Knight Riders. Because the Knight Riders are recognized as the most valuable franchise brand in the IPL despite the team's flop shows on the field. Because his presence alone can guarantee a packed house at Eden Gardens. Because all the brands he endorses -- Nokia, Tag Heuer, Hyundai -- sponsor his team as well.

29. Jagmohan Dalmiya (President, Cricket Association of Bengal)

Because he was Indian cricket's first ever czar. Because it was his shrewd business and marketing skills which made the BCCI the richest cricket body in the world. Because he was declared by the BBC as one of the world's top six sports executives. Because he played the role of India's Ali Bacher during the 1996 World Cup when Australia and West Indies boycotted civil-war-plagued Sri Lanka, putting together a united India-Pakistan team to play in the island. Because his lobbying powers were legendary enough to be unanimously elected as ICC chairman in 1997. Because he has survived financial scandal and the loss of his job to Sharad Pawar, yet remains the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal. Because he is a force who can't ever be written off in the volatile world of Indian cricket.

30. Baichung Bhutia (Football icon)

Because he has turned Indian football on its head. Because he is the first Indian footballer to play in the English league. Because he is the first to be loaned to the Malaysian league. Because fans and football players consider him the god of the modern Indian game. Because he has led India to international honours that include winning the Nehru Cup, LG Cup, South Asian Football Federation Championship (three times) and the AFC Challenge Cup. Because he is India's most capped player, having received his 100th international cap in the 2009 Nehru Cup. Because he has been the Indian captain for 13 years. Because he is the first Indian sportsperson to boycott the Olympic torch relay in support of Tibet. Because he is the founding chairperson of the Football Players' Association of India.

31. Viren Rasquinha (COO, Olympic Gold Quest)

Because he quit the national team to complete a dual major in marketing and strategy from the highly-regarded Indian School of Business. Because he refused lucrative private sector offers to join Olympic Gold Quest as its chief operating officer to scout potential medal prospects, using the experience he gained playing as a midfielder and captain for India. Because he, along with founding members Prakash Padukone and Geet Sethi, raised Rs 10 crore for athletes to train for the 2012 London Olympics and plan to raise another Rs 100 crore for the 2016 Games.

32. Manisha Malhotra (Administrator, Mittal Trust)

Because she is the fairy godmother of Indian sports. Because as the administrator of steel baron Laxmi Mittal's Mittal Trust with a fund of $10 million, she disburses grants directly to deserving athletes and pays for their specialised coaching overseas. Because the trust supports 40 athletes including boxers and shooters. Because the 2006 Asian Games silver medallist has made it her mission to empower athletes.


Image: Shahrukh Khan

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Bhogle is India's longest-serving talking head on cricket

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33. Praful Patel (President, All India Football Federation)

Because he is the boss of the All-India Football Federation. Because he just might convince Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra to buy a team in the I-League. Because he has recently been appointed as a member of the FIFA legal committee. Because he persuaded the BCCI to give a grant of Rs 25 crore for Indian football. Because he is also the vice-president of the Maharashtra Olympic Association. Because he has roped in Salman Khan to be the brand ambassador of AIFF. Because he is also a part of the Union Cabinet as a minister of state in the civil aviation department.

34. Karti Chidambaram (Vice-president, All India Tennis Association)

Because he was the organizing committee chairman of the ATP Chennai Open. Because he has clamped down on excessive expenditure and awarded wild-card entries to Indian players at South Asia's only ATP tournament. Because he has urged for a pro-player agenda in the All-India Tennis Association meeting for some time. Because the buzz is that he is now planning to take over the reins of Indian tennis. Because he is the son of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.

35. Harsha Bhogle (Commentator)

Because he is India's longest-serving talking head on cricket, having broadcast the sport from all around the world for ESPN Star Sports since 1995. Because he is the voice of credibility for millions of fans, having started broadcasting at the age of 19 with All India Radio. Because, as the country's first celebrity television presenter on cricket, his programmes, Harsha Online, Harsha Unplugged and School Quiz Olympiad for ESPN and Star Sports drive up ratings.

Because his take on cricket is respected globally -- "His views on Indian cricket demand attention," notes Wisden. Because he was the first Indian commentator to work for ABC Radio Grandstand, handling India's tours of Australia. Because he was part of the BBC commentary team during the 1996 and 1999 World Cups. Because his image as a gentleman does not stop him from speaking his mind.

Because his career spans more than 80 Test matches and almost 300 ODIs. Because Gentleman magazine chose him as one of '50 Men You Want to Know Better'. Because he graduated with distinction in chemical engineering from Osmania University in Hyderabad, followed that up with an MBA from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, and still chose to go after his passion, cricket. Because his voice was dubbed "the sexiest on radio" by Australian writer Susan Kurosawa in 2005.

36. Col M Raja (Secretary, Indian Amateur Boxing Federation)

Because he is the chief of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation. Because the sport has taken giant strides during his tenure with Indian boxers winning Olympic and world championship medals. Because his best efforts have ensured that the talent pool is growing with boxers from Manipur and Assam making a big mark. Because he has managed to retain the services of Cuban coach B I Fernandez. Because his penchant for regularly communicating with boxers and officials all but guarantees that they have everything they need in their quest for top honours.


Image: Harsha Bhogle

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Saina is youngest face of triumphant Indian sport

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37. Saina Nehwal (Badminton star)

Because she is ranked among the top 10 singles badminton players in the world. Because she is the youngest face of triumphant Indian sport, slaloming into the limelight when she entered the quarter-finals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Because her win at the Indonesia Super Series last June made her a sensation overnight in the badminton world. Because the 2008 world junior champion believes she can make it to a top four ranking in 2010 and also win a medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Because she has busted the myth that only cricketers can make big money. Because she is the brand ambassador of cricket team Deccan Chargers and has a lucrative contract with Yonex, along with other multi-crore rupees worth of contracts.

38. Leander Paes (Tennis star)

Because he is the official torch bearer of Indian tennis. Because his movie-star looks and media savvy ways bestow on him a glamour that motivates young players. Because he won a bronze medal in singles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and has shown his class in doubles, winning 11 Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles titles. Because he is the recipient of top honours, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 1996 and the Padma Shri in 2001, for his contributions to Indian tennis. Because he has turned sports guru by opening a centre for excellence where talented youngsters from all disciplines will train to become world-class players. Because a five-minute speech by him can generate Rs 83 lakh for Olympic Gold Quest.

39. Mahesh Bhupati (Tennis star)

Because he partnered with Leander Paes to become India's most magic pairing since Vijay Amritraj and Ramanathan Krishnan. Because he is the first Indian to win a major at the French Open (1997 mixed doubles title with Rika Hiraki). Because he has captured 11 Grand Slam titles in the men's doubles and mixed doubles, making him one of the best doubles players of the Open era. Because he and Paes were ranked world No. 1 in 2001 when they reached the final of all four Grand Slams in the men's doubles. Because he founded and owns Globosport, a sports and entertainment management enterprise which holds tournaments and also manages the career of Sania Mirza.


Image: Saina Nehwal

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Gavaskar's word is gospel in cricket

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40. Sunil Gavaskar (Commentator)

Because he is the first cricket superstar of India and was named the "Little Master" years before Sachin Tendulkar. Because his word is still gospel, albeit unofficially in cricket's corridors of power. Because his commentaries influence public perception. Because he is one of the few living players to have a trophy named after him: the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Because he is not afraid of controversy -- witness the outburst from the 2008 Australian tour: "Millions of Indians want to know if it was a white man taking the white man's word against that of the brown man."

41. Abhinav Bindra (Shooter)

Because he has inspired a spurt in shooting schools after becoming the first Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal. Because his poster-boy looks and soft-spoken manner have made him a youth icon. Because he took on the National Rifle Association of India after it decided not to include him on the team for the World Cup despite his fine performances in international meets.

42. Vijender Singh (Boxer)

Because he is the first Indian to win an Olympic boxing medal (2008 bronze) and picked up another at the 2009 World Championships. Because he is the world's top-ranked middleweight boxer. Because he has turned boxing into a sport which has a huge fan following among Indian youth. Because he is the glamorous face of the sport, walking the ramp for well-known fashion designers. Because he was honoured with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2009. Because he became the first millionaire boxer in India with a multi-crore deal with Percept Talent Management.


Image: Sunil Gavaskar (left), Abhinav Bindra

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The Indian team swears by Kirsten

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43. Gary Kirsten (India cricket coach)

Because he dared to pick up the gauntlet to become India's cricket coach, delivering more wins than any other mentor. Because his restraint off the field is way more powerful than predecessor Greg Chappel's boorish aggression. Because his understated approach brings solidarity to the dressing room. Because his strategy to remain invisible from a cricket-obsessed media has worked wonders for the team performance.

Because the Indian team swears by him. Because the Indian captain and the selection committee have learnt to trust his instinct and coaching skills. Because his influence exceeds that of the players -- even the BCCI is amenable to his suggestions. Because he had the influence to get Paddy Upton appointed as mental conditioning coach and Eric Simons as the bowling coach. Because Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri sought him out for the job as Indian coach.

44. Gaj Singh (Polo Honcho)

Because he uses his royal lineage to promote polo as a niche and elite sport but one which also attracts the biggest of brands in terms of sponsorship. Because he has single-handedly made Jodhpur the epicentre of polo and uses his considerable clout and wealth to attract attention to the game. Because he helps the city host tournaments throughout December with prestigious tournaments like the Beginners Cup and Indian Polo Association-approved events like The Rajputana and Central India Cup. Because he also hosted the Royal Salute Maharaja of Jodhpur Golden Jubilee Cup last December.

Because his personal grief over son Shivraj Singh's polo accident has not got in the way of promoting the game that his ancestors excelled in. Because he is India's ambassador for Federation of International Polo and has twice served as an IPA vice-president. Because his status as the Mahraraja of Jodhpur has revived polo's glamour in the country.

45. Dr Anant Joshi (Doctor)

Because he is the keeper of some of Indian sports' very expensive knees, elbows and joints. Because he is an early pioneer of sports medicine, having performed arthroscopic key-hole surgery on Kapil Dev's knee in 1980. Because he holds a degree in sports science from the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, Alabama, and serves as a medical consultant to the BCCI . Because his surgeries have helped Sachin Tendulkar prolong his career. Because he decides which athletes are medically fit to play. Because he has resurrected the careers of star athletes like P T Usha, Dhanraj Pillay and Akhil Kumar.

46. Baldev Singh (Hockey coach)

Because he has turned Shahbad, a dusty little town on the Grand Trunk Road from New Delhi to Amritsar into the cradle of Indian women's hockey. Because five of his players, including captain Surinder Singh, played on the 2009 Asia Cup runner-up team and have qualified for this year's World Cup. Because he has created 27 international players in the past 15 years. Because he is the "pastor" of the "star flock" working to create champions on a shoestring budget. Because no one else has ever had such an impact on a town in a sport and transformed the fortunes of so many. Because he is, with official help, behind the creation of an upcoming girls' residential hostel costing Rs 1.5 crore which will launch the stars of the future.


Image: Gary Kirsten

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Sania is seen as India's Anna Kournikova

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47. M A M Ramaswamy (Chairman, Chettinad Group)

Because he is the Don Corleone of Indian racing. Because he took on the Tamil Nadu government in the 1970s when it attempted to ban horse racing and won an order from the Supreme Court, effectively saving horse racing in India. Because he has built an empire on the turf, making him the most powerful man in Indian horse racing not just today but in history. Because he has won over 500 Indian and regional classics combined. Because he dominates most racing centres with about a 1,000 horses in training in India. Because he is also the chairman of a business conglomerate which ranges from cement to infotech, enabling him to buy the best stock in large numbers. Because most breeders salute every time he walks by. Because he is considered to be as generous as he is ruthless. Because those who love him won't hide the affection while those who hate him would never be careless enough to admit it publicly.

48. Churchill Alemao (Team Owner, Churchill Brothers)

Because he is a powerful politician who believes action equals action. Because his club has an annual expenditure of Rs 7.5 crore, with Rs 2 crore reserved for three foreign players alone. Because a Rs 18 crore sponsorship deal with pharma company Musli Power has boosted his club's player power. Because Churchill hopes to win Asia's premier football competition, the Champions League.

49. Shrinivas Dempo (Team Owner, Dempo Sports)

Because he changed his thinking to "only on top or nowhere else" and made Dempo one of the most influential football teams in Asia. Because he overcame the 2000 debacle when the club was relegated to the second division in the National Football League. Because his annual budget of Rs 8 crore this season is the highest ever. Because he recently sold mining and maritime businesses for Rs 17.5 billion in a deal with Sesa Goa, a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources. Because he plans to build a state-of-the-art stadium in Goa.

50. Sania Mirza (Tennis star)

Because she is seen as India's Anna Kournikova, her star power and sex appeal guaranteeing packed stadiums. Because her big forehands bewilder opponents and mark her out to be a top-draw singles player. Because she overcame injuries and lack of opportunities to inspire young India with her game. Because she received nationwide support when Muslim clerics banned her tennis dress, turning her into a national icon. Because her career-high ranking of 27 in singles in 2007 and her first major victory (the 2009 Australian Open mixed doubles title with Mahesh Bhupathi), have brought her superstardom and lucrative endorsements.


Image: Sania Mirza

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