TEAM INDIA 2011 is packed with sporting action. Here’s a look at some of the tournaments where India will be hoping to make its presence felt. G. PRASAD
Football: AFC Asian Cup
Football is a much-loved sport in India, despite the national team not having made it big in the international arena. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup will provide a great chance for the Indian team to prove its mettle. The 15th edition of the quadrennial tournament kicks off in Qatar on January 7. India qualified for the tournament – for the first time since 1984 – by virtue of winning the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008. India reached the final of the AFC Asian Cup way back in 1964, but lost to Israel. The Indian team will be hoping to make it a memorable outing.
Cricket: World Cup
The quadrennial event returns to the subcontinent after 15 years. The 10th World Cup will be jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. And the fans don’t have to wait too long in the New Year as the mega event gets off to a start in February and goes on till the first week of April. It will be a treat for the Indian fans, what with the country hosting 29 of the 49matches, including the final. The memories of Kapil Dev holding the Prudential World Cup high remain etched in the minds of cricket fans across the country. Team India would be determined to regain the coveted trophy in front of the home crowd. Even legendary cricketers such as Kapil Dev and Sir Vivian Richards feel that India is a runaway favourite to win the World Cup. India, however, will be cautious enough while opening its campaign against Bangladesh to whom it lost embarrassingly in the 2007 edition in West Indies, which hastened its exit from the tournament.
Formula 1: Indian Grand Prix
Two Indian drivers have made it to F1 thus far – Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok. And there is an Indian team in F1 as well – Force India. So, what next? It’s the Indian Grand Prix (IGP). India is all set to host a F1 Grand Prix in 2011. It will be held at the Jaypee International Race Circuit in Noida on October 30. Already an admired sport in the country, IGP is expected to further boost F1’s popularity. For the die-hard F1 fans in India, seeing the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in flesh and blood would be a dream come true. The 2011 season, which features 20 races, begins in Bahrain on March 13 and culminates in Brazil on November 27. Force India would seek a home win at IGP and if it signs up an Indian driver the fans will have a lot more to cheer about. Like the 2010 season, if the driver’s championship goes down to the wire, fans can expect an exciting fare at IGP what with the race being the third last of the 2011 calendar.
Hockey: Champions Trophy
After successfully hosting the men’s hockey World Cup in 2010, India will play host to another major event – the men’s Champions Trophy, in November–December 2011. India as host qualified automatically for the tournament, which will feature seven other teams — World champion Australia, Olympic champion Germany, The Netherlands, England, Spain, Korea and Pakistan. Bringing such mega events to India will help reignite the passion for our national sport. A disappointing eighth place finish in the World Cup notwithstanding, India salvaged some pride in the recent Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. After 1996 and 2005, the Champions Trophy returns to India and the host will be hoping to be third time lucky to win the tournament that has eluded it so far.
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