2023, much like 2022, will be packed with World Cup action across sports, a quadrennial multi-sport event, along with several World and Asian Championships.
From an Indian perspective, the next year will be crucial. 2023 will be the third straight year when Indian athletes will be in action at a multi-sport event, with the COVID-19 delayed Asian Games set to take place in China in September.
In 2021 and 2022, Indian athletes have set new standards at the Tokyo Olympics and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and there is expectation of similar exceptional performance at the Asiad in Hangzhou. Additionally, this year will be the peak of the Olympic qualification cycle, with a number of opportunities for Indian athletes to seal their spot at the 2024 Paris Games.
Here is ESPN India's handy guide on what to watch out for in 2023:
(For more information, here's a detailed calendar of all Indians in action through 2023)
Hockey World Cup (men's) in January
Starting the year, India will host the men's Hockey World Cup in Odisha from January 13 to 29. India may not be heavy favourites for the title, but they are expected to make a deep run.
In the 2018 World Cup - also held in Odisha - India lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. But since then, the team has grown in strength with medals at the 2021 Olympics (bronze) and 2022 Commonwealth Games (silver) along with a good showing in the FIH Pro League (finished third in the '20-'21 edition).
The hosts are placed in Pool D along with England, Spain and Wales. India will open their campaign on January 13 against Spain.
Also in hockey, both the Indian men's and women's team will compete in the FIH Pro League -- the top-tier nine-team competition. While the men's team qualified through the ranking, the women's team won the FIH Nations Cup and made the cut.
Asian Games in October
This will be the big test for Indian athletes. The Asian Games will both also serve as a dress rehearsal for the 2024 Olympics, as well as an Olympic qualifier in many disciplines.
Watch out for all of India's star names in action as every major sport as they will look to build the kind of momentum they did at the last edition in 2018, which then carried into the next Olympic cycle and the Games in Tokyo. The Asiad will also see India's kabaddi teams in action after a long time as well the debut of new Olympic sports breaking and eSports in this edition.
Cricket World Cups
Yes, World Cups. Multiple. The year 2023 will see three different World Cup -- the women's T20 World Cup in February, the men's ODI World Cup in October and the first-ever women's Under-19 World Cup (delayed by the pandemic) in January. Any World Cup is always noteworthy from an Indian cricket perspective, and this year is no different.
Athletics World Championships in August
The World Athletics Championships will be held in 2023 for a second straight year (the COVID-19 delayed one was held last year). They are scheduled to be held from 19 August to 27 August 2023 in Budapest. In 2022 at Oregon, Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian man to win a medal at the World Championship... and was not satisfied with the silver he won. Also in athletics and Neeraj Chopra watch, there is the Diamond League competition through the year.
Asian Wrestling Championships in March and April
Delhi will also host the Asian Wrestling Championships from March 28 to April 2. Delhi had also hosted the tournament in February 2020. The tournament is important because it will determine seeding for the World Championships in September, which is an Olympic qualifier.
World Wrestling Championships in September
This brings us to the World Championships, which will be held in Belgrade, Serbia for the second straight year. The dates are yet to be finalised because it will clash with the pushed-back Asian Games. There will be 90 Olympic quota spots available at the Worlds - 5 each in a category - which makes it a very important event for Indian wrestlers.
Boxing World Championship -- Women's in March, Men's in May
India will host the IBA Women's World Boxing Championship for the third time (after 2006 and 2018), with New Delhi being the hosts this year. The IBA Men's World Boxing Championship will be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan from May 1 to 14.
India have a reigning world champion in Nikhat Zareen, who is also ESPN India's Female Athlete of the Year for her title in 2022, and she will hope to defend her title at home. New Delhi 2023 will also be the first event where the digital evaluation and bout review will be introduced, which is being touted as an important tool for the sport of boxing.
Weightlifting and Table Tennis Worlds
The other Worlds this year are the World Weightlifting Championships, scheduled to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in September and the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals - the individual world championship event - in Durban in May. While Mirabai Chanu will be a medal favourite again (she won silver in 2022), an elusive table tennis medal will be one of the goals from the ever-improving TT contingent.
Indian badminton is at a stage where there is something to watch out for in every tournament. In January 2023, PV Sindhu is set for her injury comeback after missing half the 2022 season due to the injury she sustained during her gold medal run at the Commonwealth Games in July. In men's singles, India currently has three top-15 players in world No. 7 Lakshya Sen, No. 8 HS Prannoy and No. 12 Kidambi Srikanth. The highest ranked Indians, and ESPN India's Male Athletes of the Year, are Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty at world No 5.
These players have built a reputation in 2022 with a historic Thomas Cup win and a CWG sweep, and will be sure to carry that momentum into the new year, which will start the Olympic qualification cycle from May. The big tournaments will be the Asian Games, always a tough proposition for badminton, the World Championships in August and the Sudirman Cup in May - the world mixed team championships held in alternate years with the Thomas and Uber Cup.
NOTE: The India Open -- to be played in Delhi in January -- has been upgraded to a 750 this year and despite a lethal draw for Indians, will have the top international stars in action.
The 2023 AFC Asian Cup might be pushed to 2024 because the hosts changed from China to Qatar and the weather conditions there means winter is the best bet. But there will be two other continental club competitions to keep an eye on for Indian football -- the AFC Cup and the AFC Champions League in the second half of the year.
Women's FIFA World Cup in August
The women's FIFA World Cup will be held in Australia and New Zealand. The tournament has been expanded to 32 teams, similar to that of the men's. USA are two-time defending champions, remember Megan Rapinoe being a baller in 2019?
Additionally, the men's Rugby World Cup will be held in September and October in France and the men's Basketball World Cup will be held in multiple Asian countries in August and September.