The 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held exactly a year after the Tokyo Olympics, which changed much in Indian sport. The CWG is not the most intense multi-sport event in terms of competition and offers a rare platform for young Indian athletes to make a mark at a multi-sport event.
A year since Tokyo, there are several young and upcoming players in the Indian squad; from a 14-year-old making her India debut to junior potential transitioning into senior-level performance. Whether or not they win a medal, their presence in the Indian contingent represents a new hope. A new national record, the first Indian triathlete at CWG, a second javelin throw medal, fresh blood in an Olympic-medal-winning hockey team.
Ahead of the Commonwealth Games, ESPN looks at some of the new names to watch out for in Birmingham -
DP Manu and Rohit Yadav - Javelin throw
Olympic and defending champion Neeraj Chopra has pulled out of the Commonwealth Games due to an injury but there is still hope in DP Manu and Rohit Yadav. Rohit made it to the World Championships final along with Chopra, finishing eighth. Both are among the top in this season's list among Commonwealth athletes. The favourites will be the recent Worlds gold and silver medallists, Anderson Peters from Grenada.
The 2012 Olympics champion Keshorn Walcott, the third best among Commonwealth athletes behind Peters and Chopra, and Pakistan's Arshad Nadeem, who finished fifth at the World Championships, will also be tough competitors.
Manu and Rohit have both consistently crossed the 80m mark this year and are the best among the new crop of javelin throwers. Manu had won gold at the National Inter-State Championships last month with a throw of 84.35m while Rohit qualified for his first World Championships final and has a personal best of 82.54m.
Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly - Badminton
The Indian women's badminton squad for CWG is an almost fresh one, bar PV Sindhu. While 20-year-old Akarshi Kashyap is the new face in singles, the teenaged doubles pair of Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly will have plenty of interest owing to their form earlier this year.
The two 19-year-olds made a mark on the BWF Tour by reaching the semifinals of the All England in March, after being called in from reserves, and became the first Indian pair to do so. Gayatri, who is the daughter of Indian badminton great Pullela Gopichand, combined with Treesa after both chose to focus on doubles only a year ago.
In their first year as a pair, they won a Super 100 title in Odisha this year and finished runners-up at the Syed Modi in January. They also won the national selection trials with an unbeaten record, after going against more experienced pairs such as the 2018 CWG medallists Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy.
The duo haven't played together much lately due to injury issues after the trials. But it was in Birmingham, at the All England, that they first showed their mettle at their highest level and they will look to do that against in the same city.
Abhishek - Hockey
The Indian men's hockey team, after the drought-ending medal at the Tokyo Olympics, has seen a transitional period with several seniors retiring and new blood coming in. Of them, the player who has impressed the most is young forward Abhishek.
The 22-year-old made his debut at the FIH Hockey Pro League matches in South Africa in February and consistently stood out for his attack and his finishing skills. He scored six field goals in the Pro League matches and will be a crucial part of India's strike force at the CWG.
The striker from Sonepat, Haryana has been part of India's Junior program and earned his spot in the senior national camp after strong performances in the domestic circuit. He started playing hockey at the age of 11 when he saw his school friends playing the sport and soon became a serious player after his school coaches convinced his parents to allow him. He has a wide variety of moves in attack and has now sealed his place in the senior team in less than a year.
Diya Chitale - Table tennis
Diya Chitale, a 19-year-old from Mumbai who has aced domestic table tennis from the age group level, had to earn her place for her first-ever Commonwealth Games appearance by appealing in court.
The India No. 3 was initially named as a standby in the squad and filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court saying that the selection committee had bypassed the agreed criteria to include Archana Kamath as Manika Batra's doubles partner. The duo had played together before and formed a top team.
The Committee of Administrators (CoA) running the suspended Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) then reversed that to include Diya. Other than the court battle, the teenager has been one of the most promising young table tennis players in the country, training at an elite level from a very young age.
She has trained in Mumbai followed by Germany and Japan starting from when she was just 13. She has also won the nationals at all age levels. In Birmingham, she will be part of the team championship and in women's doubles along with India's 2018 CWG star, Manika Batra.
Anahat Singh - Squash
Anahat Singh is only 14 years of age - that's the first thing that makes her stand out in India's CWG squad. Squash may not be India's best bet for a medal at the CWG given the competition but for a Grade 9 student to be making her senior India debut at an event as big as CWG is special. For context: she will be competing in singles and women's doubles, alongside 35-year-old Joshna Chinappa and 30-year-old Dipika Pallikal.
The country's best junior player since Under-11 days, Anahat was called up for trials this year after a string of impressive performances on the junior international circuit, including the British Junior Squash Open (2019) and US Junior Squash Open (2021). She beat everyone there, except Sunayana Kuruvilla, who is also part of the squad, and booked her spot (senior pros Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinnapa were not part of the trials).
Taking up the sport at the age of eight following in her sister Amira's footsteps at Siri Fort in Delhi, Anahat is now set to be a senior India player within a span of just 6 years. Irrespective of her performance in Birmingham, she will be a player to watch out for a long time.
Honourable mentions: Pragnya Mohan - Triathlon
Triathlon, a combination of three sports, is not a discipline India is often associated with at the big events and this will be the first time there will be Indian representation. Pragnya Mohan, the first triathlete to represent India in the Triathlon World Cup, will be in action along with 17-year-old Sanjana Joshi.
Pragnya is the national and South Asian Triathlon champion and will look to make a mark in her India debut at a multi-sport event.