A new season comes with new beginnings, new challenges, new hope. By most accounts, 2022 was a memorable year for Indian sport in the popular disciplines, with global success aplenty (minus perhaps men’s cricket). In 2023, as we go one crucial step closer to Paris 2024, there are major cricketing events lined up, World Cups and World Championships to be hosted in India, and another multi-sport event to look forward to in the form of the postponed Asian Games.
From cricket to boxing, tennis to badminton, and the ever-important aspect of clean, honest, good-hearted sports administration, the members of the sports team at Scroll.in list out a few things to look forward to seeing in 2023.
A new crop of badminton stars?
With a shortened Olympic cycle, plenty of attention in 2023 for Indian sport will be on qualification for Paris 2024, and that will invariably mean that the best of the best shuttlers will be vying to earn points and do consistently on the BWF World Tour. The men’s singles battle especially promises to be fascinating within the Indian shuttlers themselves, apart from their competitors.
But apart from that, I wish to see the next group of youngsters make their mark on the international circuit to build on the 2022 season that was by all accounts memorable for the badminton fraternity after a couple of dull years. The young Indian pairs of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand, Tanisha Crasto and Ishaan Bhatnagar are already on their way up.
But it would be especially important to see more singles players make a push to top 20. The question “who after Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu?” has been around for what it feels like an eternity, but there is no still definitive answer to it. The likes of Aakarshi Kashyap and Malvika Bansod need more breakthrough wins on tour, but I am especially keen to see how the group younger to them – with Tasnim Mir, Unnati Hooda and a couple more – can progress. It is also a big year for Sankar Muthusamy Subramanian too, the silver medallist at 2021 World Junior Championships who holds promise in men’s singles.
These youngsters might not be making the cut to Paris, but it is something that needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Away from Indian sport, of course, a personal wish is to see Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek dominate the tennis season because the future is here and it belongs to them if they seize this season.— Vinayakk Mohanarangan
An end to ICC trophy drought for Indian men’s team?
It’s been nine long years. Indian men last won an ICC trophy at the Champions Trophy in 2013. With the kind of personnel, resources, bench strength and exposure they possess, the lack of results at ICC events for so long is becoming increasingly difficult to make peace with.
Each time, in the build up to these events, we hear a great deal about the kind of preparation and vision for the ongoing cycle for the men’s cricket team. We watch it being executed in bilaterals, only for it to end with an underwhelming campaign at the big stage.
The ICC Men’s ODI Cricket World Cup is set to happen in India, in October this year. The Indian viewer might perhaps be cautious about how high they set their expectations this time around. They have been burnt quite a few times in the last few years – the T20 World Cup in the final in 2014, the T20 World Cup semi-final exit in 2016, the Champions Trophy final in 2019, the semi-final exit at the 2019 World Cup, the early exit at the T20 World Cup in 2021 followed by the 10-wicket heartbreak against England in the semi-final at the 2022 edition.
Yeah, the list should end right here. As simple as that.
A radical, England-limited overs-cricket-post-2015 level revolution is needed for the Indian men’s team but it still feels like a far-fetched dream. The new year is about new beginnings, though, so here’s hoping Indian cricket sees it that way too.
And I’m also keen to see how Nikhat Zareen goes in 2023 as a local favourite on the biggest stage. Stronger, resilient and with a gold in every tournament she participated in 2022, she will be the favourite to defend her crown in 2023. Come March and the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships at New Delhi, the Nizamabad-boxer will be vying to keep up her reputation as one of the best female pugilists in the world and bag back-to-back golds.— Samreen Razzaqui
A comeback in singles tennis for India?
The 2022 season for Indian singles tennis was largely forgettable. For the first time since 2005, there was no male singles player ranked inside the top 300. And we start the new year, the highest ranked players from the country are women’s No 266 Ankita Raina and men’s No 340 Sasikumar Mukund.
The ever-so pragmatic Mukund had nicely summed it up in an interview with Scroll.in when he became the India No 1 for the first time, calling it a bittersweet moment because the “country’s status has fallen below 300.”
There’s no other way to put it.
But, there’s always hope that the harsh lessons from this year will make way for better pastures in 2023. A few wins can help change the tide, and for the Indian players that have long been knocking on the door, maybe there will be someone who can finally breakthrough. It’s been a while since Prajnesh Gunneswaran, in 2019, became the last Indian to break into the top 100.
What I’m looking forward to seeing in 2023 is a reaction from the Indians. A comeback. After all, this is still a country that has reached the Davis Cup final three-times.
Elsewhere, I look forward to see how Novak Djokovic plays at the Australian Open. Especially after everything that happened the last time he was in that part of the world. The Grand Slam race still isn’t over.— Shahid Judge
Indian administrators to do a better job?
2022 was a good year for India’s athletes. Less so for its sports administrators.
Cycling coach RK Sharma and the Indian U-17 women’s team’s assistant coach Alex Ambrose were both sacked following allegations of sexual assault. While their athletes performed at the highest levels, the Table Tennis Federation of India and the Athletics Federation of India were both hauled to court for their selection policies.
Quite a few different sports federations were stripped of their powers by Indian courts and replaced by judicial administrators at some point. While Narinder Batra was forced out of his leadership positions from the Indian Olympic Association and Hockey India without much of a fightback, Praful Patel was not willing to let go of his hold over the All India Football Federation without a fight.
India were subsequently banned by Fifa with question marks over India’s right to host the U-17 Women’s World Cup. The ban lasted 11 days and India retained the right to host the tournament. However, Gokulam Kerala bore the brunt of the ban with their women’s side being thrown out of the AFC Club Championship after they had already landed in Tashkent.
The U-17 World Cup was held without any problems. However, the AIFF was given yet another reminder that merely hosting global tournaments won’t develop the sport in the country.
But change is in the air. The IOA, Hockey India and the AIFF are now headed by individuals who have played at the highest levels for India. Former athletes don’t necessarily make for great administrators, but there is hope that they will do good by their sports. In 2023, the hope is that all athletes are given the support and opportunity they need to perform at their best levels.
Apart from this, 2023 begins with the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in Odisha. The Indian team under coach Graham Reid will be looking to end another long medal drought at a global event. Playing in front of home fans, this will be another chance to show how far the team has come.— Dilip Unnikrishnan
Global glory for Indian women’s cricket?
It promises to be an extremely significant year for Indian women’s cricket. There are two World Cups lined up – the ICC Women’s U-19 T20 World Cup followed by the senior T20 World Cup – along with the highly-anticipated first edition of the Women’s Indian Premier League. In fact, all of this is scheduled to happen in the first half of the year so for fans, it’s time to strap in quickly.
First up is the U-19 T20 World Cup in South Africa. It is the inaugural edition of the tournament and heading into it, the Indian team has been in impressive form with a 5-0 series win against the New Zealand development squad recently. Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh, regulars in the senior side, have been included in the squad in what was a debatable decision, and there are a number of other promising players in the squad like G Trisha, Soumya Tiwari, Hurley Gala, Mannat Kashyap and Shabnam.
Then there is the senior T20 World Cup, also in South Africa. The last edition of the tournament concluded in March 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic brought most of the world to a standstill, and India lost to Australia in the final in front of a packed MCG. Harmanpreet Kaur and Co won the CWG silver last year and gained confidence but concerns remain as far as the team composition is concerned, as was evident in the 1-4 loss against the mighty Aussies in the recent T20I series at home.
Finally, there is the WIPL. The men’s IPL has had 15 editions since its launch in 2008 and there is little doubt that the lucrative tournament has had a major impact on how the shortest format is played globally. The first WIPL edition is reported to have just five teams competing but given India’s financial might in the cricketing world, it has the potential to be a momentous event.
Women’s cricket in India has received the short end of the stick in recent years. You could come across arguments justifying this delay in launching the WIPL, but they’re unlikely to be too convincing. From scheduling a limited number of games to doing precious little promotion, the administrators have left a lot to be desired in terms of raising the profile of Indian women’s cricket.
However, 2023 presents a great opportunity for the players themselves to shake things up. An U-19 T20 World Cup victory for India, followed by a senior T20 World Cup victory for India, followed by a cracking WIPL season with packed stadiums like the ones we saw during the Australia series recently – all of this together seems like a long shot, but one can dream.— Aditya Chaturvedi