Mission 2024: Indian fans pray for double digit medals in Paris, World T20 crown
Also brace for Euro 2024 football, to be held in Germany from 14 June-14 July
The new year has plenty on offer in sports, much of it of great significance to the Indian fan. And it’s not only about cricket but rather about a window of opportunity after ages in Paris Olympics, where there are realistic expectations of India crossing the double-digit medals mark for the first time.
If Tokyo 2020 saw India return with its best-ever haul of seven medals, including Neeraj Chopra’s javelin gold, what has buoyed the expectation levels for Paris are the 107 medals in the Hangzhou Asian Games. Granted, the competition levels at the Asian Games and Olympics are not quite the same, but the likes of shooting, badminton and even some of the field events can be gamechangers in shaping India's medal hunt.
From an Indian sports fan’s perspective, anything cricket continues to dominate the eyeballs, and hence the T20 World Cup in June in the US and West Indies will once again be looked upon as an opportunity to end India's ICC title drought in men's cricket, which has been ongoing since 2013. The heartbreak of Rohit Sharma & Co in the final of the 50-over World Cup in November is still raw, more so in light of the expectations they raised with a 10-match winning streak.
However, come April, and the Gen-X of Indian chess will be under the spotlight when the Candidates’ tournament — which selects the candidate to play the world champion — is held in Toronto, Canada. After D. Gukesh also squeezed in a berth on Sunday, an unprecedented number of three Indians will be featuring in the elite eight-member field — Gukesh, R. Praggnanandhaa and Vidit Gujrathi.
Meanwhile in the women’s Candidates to be played simultaneously, Vaishali Rameshbabu, a women’s GM and Pragg’s sister, will possibly be figuring along with senior pro Koneru Humpy.
Looking at the bigger picture, Euro 2024 — billed as the World Cup of European nations — will be held from 14 June to 14 July in Germany. Here’s a look at the major sporting issues to keep an eye on this year:
Paris Olympics: 26 July to 11 August
The Summer Olympics is back after a three-year cycle instead of the usual four, as the Tokyo Games were deferred to 2021 owing to the Covid pandemic. While this may require a bulk of athletes across disciplines to tailor their preparation time, it also offers an opportunity to assess the elite athletes’ form closer to the Games.
The BWF World Tour’s India Open badminton will be an important tournament for shuttlers, including the world no.1 doubles pair of Satwik-Chirag, H.S. Prannoy and double Olympic medallist P.V. Sindhu, hoping to make the cut for Paris.
The qualifying race for hockey will be held in Ranchi on 13 January and will be the first major sports event in India in 2024. The Indian women’s hockey team, which finished a hugely creditable fourth in Tokyo, will look to earn their tickets to Paris while the men’s team has already qualified thanks to its gold medal in Hangzhou.
T20 World Cup: 4-30 June
The curiosity value of this edition of the World Cup will be huge, with the US joining hands with the West Indies as co-hosts. While two-time champions West Indies had hosted one edition in the early days of the tournament in 2010, the ICC is clearly eyeing the US as a huge untapped market for the cricketing diaspora.
There are an unprecedented 20 teams in the fray, split into four groups of five teams — with two teams moving up from each group to the Super Eight stage. Going by reputation, the men in blue should not have a problem in reaching the next round, but the T20 format has shown in the past that it can be quite a killing field for big names. The margin for error will be thin, and the task will be cut out.
Euro 2024: 14 June-14 July
Germany, a world football powerhouse and three-time champions, will host the 17th stage of Euro 2024 across 10 cities. As the host nation, Germany are seeded in Group A and will occupy position A1, which means they will play in the opening match at the Munich Football Arena on 14 June.
The awesome record of Germany/West Germany in the FIFA World Cup (four-time champions) can be gauged from the fact that they have featured at every Euro Championships since 1972. West Germany won the 1972 and 1980 editions, while the reunited Germany triumphed last in 1996.
The draw for the final tournament, to be held in Hamburg on 2 December, is as follows:
Group A: Germany, Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland
Group B: Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania
Group C: Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England
Group D: Play-off winner A, Netherlands, Austria, France
Group E: Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Play-off winner B
Group F: Türkiye, Play-off winner C, Portugal, Czechia
Asian Cup finals, 12 January-10 February
The 24-team tournament, showcasing the best of Asian football talents, will be held in Doha from 12 January-10 February. Qatar, who played in Qatar 2022 as the host nation, are the defending champions of the tournament while what adds context for India is that the 'blue tigers' (as the Indian team is known as), have qualified for the second time in a row after 2019 edition in the UAE.
While head coach Igor Stimac urged for consistency in terms of performance on Sunday, the job will be far from easy as they have been grouped with Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria. They kick off their campaign against the Kangaroos, and one can hope and pray that they can pull a rabbit out of the hat!