2015 in Sports

There’s much to look forward to in cricket’s world cup while athletes embark on road to Rio.

Updated: December 31, 2014 10:21 pm

CRICKET WORLD CUP

When: February 14 – March 29
Where: Australia/New Zealand

* For about a month-and-a-half in 2015, India’s sleeping hours will see a drastic change. Dozy cricket fans will stumble out of their beds, reach for the television remote controls, snuggle on to the couch to catch the World Cup live from Australia and New Zealand.

Many of them had done the same in 1992 and those memories still stayed. Back then, television was new to the nation. Channel 9’s clarity and camera work made the sporting experience magical. More than a couple of decades later the novelty of the world class telecast has died but the anticipation remains. At those imposing stadiums in Australia and the quaint New Zealand venues, India will be defending the title they won at home in 2011. And it wouldn’t be easy.

The perpetual favourite Australia will have the home advantage. Inconsistency notwithstanding, Pakistan has the talent to go the distance. Imran Khan’s 1992 fairytale will be inspiring. England will hope new captain Eoin Morgan will change their luck.

With a team full of highly effective shorter version specialists, South Africa can never be written off. Sri Lanka have had an excellent 2014 and they have been supremely consistent at World Cups. But the real dark horse will be New Zealand. In 16 ODIs in 2014, they won nine and lost only five. In 1992 the talking point of the World Cup was was New Zealand’s innovative cricket.

Mark Greatbatch redefined the opener’s role, off-spinner Dipak Patel proved spinners too open bowling and Martin Crowe almost proved that World Cup can be won single-handedly.

After a long winning streak, they would suffer a heart-breaking loss to Pakistan in the semi-final. Maybe, 2015 they might move up the podium.

AFC ASIAN CUP

When: January 9-31
Where: Australia
* This will be the first time the football tournament will be held in a country geographically located outside Asia – in Australia, the runner-up of the previous edition. Interestingly enough, the third edition of the event, in 1964, was held in Israel, which now comes under UEFA’s jurisdiction

FIFA BALLON D’OR

When: January 12
Where: Zurich
* Will German ’keeper Manuel Neur see off the global super stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to be crowned as the world’s best player?

AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS

When: January 17- February 8
Where: Equatorial Guinea
* Equatorial Guinea were disqualified during the qualification stages for fielding an ineligible player. In the meantime, original hosts Morocco cited the Ebola virus as a cause for concern and failed to meet CAF requirements in time. Subsequently, Equatorial Guinea stepped in as new hosts, and as a result will feature at the competition.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN
When: January 19-February 1
Where: Australia
* This is where Stanislas Wawrinka won his maiden Grand Slam. But four different men emerged Grand Slam winners in 2014. Will this trend continue? Or will one of the Big Four step it up this season?

NBA All-Star Game

When: February 15
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City
* The NBA All-Star Game will be held in New York City for the first time since 1998. The iconic Madison Square Garden will showcase the marquee exhibition match after 17 years.

FORMULA ONE

When: The 2015 season will start March 13 – 15
Where: First race is in Melbourne, Australia
* With a bumper new race calender and some driver line-ups that are making us drool, this year’s F1 Championship is surely one to watch. Lewis Hamilton will be defending his well-earned second World Championship while Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg will be in the hunt for his first.

AUGUSTA MASTERS
When: April 9-12
Where: Augusta, United States
* Rory McIlroy will seek to become the sixth player in golf history to win a career Grand Slam when he competes in the Augusta Masters, his final hurdle. The last player to have completed the feat was Tiger Woods, who achieved the career Grand Slam three times.

FA CUP FINAL

When: May 30
Where: Wembley, London
* The best English teams will battle for the most prestigious trophy on their home soil in its 134th edition.

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
When: June 6
Where: Berlin, Germany
* Can Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea succeed in their quest of securing all four titles this season? Will Real Madrid retain the crown they won last year or is there a dark horse?

WOMEN’S FOOTBALL WORLD CUP
When: June 6 – July 5
Where: Canada
* It may not be as eagerly anticipated as the men’s event but the women’s World Cup has a lot of exciting plots and sub-plots. In a rivalry equivalent to the one between Ronaldo and Messi, it’ll be interesting to see if Brazilian legend Marta can guide her side to glory or whether American Hope Solo will have the last laugh. More importantly, will the surprise defending champions Japan continue their dominance over favourites USA, Germany, Sweden and Brazil?

COPA AMERICA 

When: June 11-July 4
Where: Chile
* South America’s biggest footballers will all descend on Chilean soil for the 2015 Copa America. Brazil’s Neymar, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Colombia’s James Rodríguez and host nation’s hero Alexis Sanchez will all play. But one superstar will not. Uruguay’s title defense will be made without Luis Suarez, who will still be under suspension from international competition. Suarez was banned for nine international games after biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup.

European Games

When: June 12-28
Where: Baku
* The popularity and relevance of the Asian Games may be under the scanner but that hasn’t stopped others from emulating the concept. Baku will host Europe’s inaugural version of the Asiad and will see more than 6,000 athletes competing in 20 sports. One wonders, why are the first European Games held in a country — Azerbaijan —that straddles Europe and Asia.

WIMBLEDON

When: June 29-July 12
Where: London
* Novak Djokovic will be defending the crown he won by beating Roger Federer in the final last year but no one will be writing off the Swiss master.

TOUR DE FRANCE
When: July 4-July 26
Where: France
* The Tour de France has a worldwide television audience of 3.5 billion people every year. The epic battle between defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador, Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana is something to look out for this time around.

World Aquatics Championships
When: July 24-August 9
Where: Kazan
* Multiple Olympic medallist and comeback man Michael Phelps will miss the championships, owing to a six-month ban slapped on him by swimming’s world governing body for a case of drunken driving. Despite his absence, the event will see a host of world and Olympic champions in action — a long list that includes 11-time Olympic medallist Ryan Lochte, South Africa’s butterfly specialist Chad le Clos, four-time Olympic backstroke champion Missy Franklin and Hungarian sensation Katinka Hosszu.

WORLD ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIP
When: August 22- 30
Where: Beijing, China
* Usain Bolt and the Birds Nest. Rings a bell, doesn’t it? The Jamaican’s exploits in 2008, when he shattered the world records in the Beijing Olympics 100m and 200m finals, ensured the two will be linked forever. Seven years on, the two will be reunited for the World Athletics Championship that will be held from August 22 to 30.

Rugby World Cup

When: October 18-31
Where: England
* The teams that qualified for this edition of the tournament matches those that featured in 2003, when England won the event. This time the English are hosts.

FRENCH OPEN 2015
When: May 24 – June 7
Where: Paris, France
* No one in the history of tennis, all 137 years of it, has dominated a particular Grand Slam like Rafael Nadal has the French Open. For the last 10 years, every time December gives way to January and a fresh tennis season, fans of the sport around the globe begin hedging their bets on just how much longer the Spaniard’s singular rule over Paris’s red clay will continue.

Nadal hasn’t let down those placing their money on him very often, winning nine out of the past 10 Roland Garros titles (Roger Federer is the only other winner, in 2009). In the same period, the Australian Open has witnessed five different men’s champions, Wimbledon four and the US Open six.

Ever since a shy boy of 18 won the 2005 French Open on his debut appearance, us tennis fanatics have associated Nadal more with the culture of Paris than the beaches of his homeplace Mallorca. It was here within the confines of Court Philippe Chatrier that a promising era of tennis began turning into the greatest epoch of the sport as a foil to Federer’s flawless perfection was born. It was here where an adolescent turned into a man and then into a legend. And it will be here, come the first week of June in 2015, that Nadal could well achieve a near-mythical status by becoming the first man to take his Slam count at a specific venue to double digits.

But this time, more than in any of his past few injury-ridden years, Nadal faces the most open French Open field yet. Not only is he recovering from appendicitis, he also has a resurgent Federer — who at 33 finished the year at No.2 — to deal with.

The pundits claim that this could perhaps be world No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s best chance of claiming the only Slam missing from his cabinet. But these very pundits aren’t betting men like us fans. They know better than to put money against Nadal on the red soil of Paris.

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