They are coming!

It is the season of the World Cup but there is plenty of other action as well to keep you hooked....

They are coming!

Which is the biggest sporting event of the year? Quick, answer in a minute, or you are out of the game. Want a clue? Here are three: It’s in a country that is blessed with sun-kissed beaches, hosts a famous carnival every year and is home to the one and only Black Pearl.

Still in the game? Then you must already be seized by the excitment of what is in store for the season ahead. The drum beats and the rhythm of the samba will rock you as the football World Cup travels to South America, with five-time champions Brazil in a last-minute rush to be ready for the event.

The stadiums aren’t ready yet and the systems are not all in place but you can be sure that when the June date approaches, the home of football for many will be more than ready for the carnival of the Beautiful Game.

The qualification phase may have ended the aspirations of many but three of the biggest stars in world football now, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, are all there to bring charm to the event that will hold the global attention for a month.

The long wait till June wouldn’t seem all that long when you cast a glance at the rest of the sporting calendar. The T20 World Cup in cricket will provide explosive action in March-April and the slam bang season will extend deep into May, with the Indian Premier League poised for its seventh season.

And before you can return from a trip to the footballing heartland, it will be cricket time again, with India set for an extended tour of England featuring five Tests and five one-day internationals.

Tennis fans will have their fill with regular grand slam action while badminton’s Thomas and Uber Cups travel to India. There is something for the fans of the multi-discipline extravaganzas as well, with the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games featuring in this year’s calendar. Have a look, we have got it all for you. Well, not all, but most of it...

Athletics

With no World Championships and no Olympic Games scheduled this year, the focus of the athletics world will be the Diamond League while a new event, the World Relays, debuts in Bahamas. Of course, if a certain Usain Bolt lines up for the Commonwealth Games, sparks will certainly fly. Mo Farah (picture above), though is a doubt for the CWG.

Asian Indoors: Hangzhou Feb 15-16World Indoors: Sopot, March 7-9World Relays: Nassau, May 24-25World Juniors: Eugene, July 22-27

Diamond League:May 9: DohaMay 17: ShanghaiMay 31: Eugene, OregonJune 5: RomeJune 11: OsloJune 14: New YorkJuly 3: LausanneJuly 5: ParisJuly 11-12: LondonJuly 18: MonacoAugust 21: StockholmAugust 24: BirminghamAugust 28: ZurichSeptember 5: Brussels

Cricket

Having begun the post-Tendulkar era on an encouraging note in the two-Test series against a formidable South Africa towards the fag end of 2013, the new-look Indian team promises to scale higher in the New Year which begins with a tour of New Zealand from Jan 19-Feb 19. The Kiwis are no South Africans but in the familiar home conditions they have always managed to hold more than their own even against superior teams. The young Indian batting line-up, led by Virat Kohli (picture, right), has the perfect opportunity to further underline its credentials.   Having wrested the Ashes in emphatic manner, Australia look to exact revenge for their home loss to South Africa when Michael Clarke’s men travel to the rainbow nation. With two of most of formidable bowling line-ups, at least on current form, set to clash, the three-Test and three T20I series is sure to leave the fans wanting for more.

The World T20 to be held in Bangladesh appears to be uncertain due to political violence in the country while the Indian Premier League in April and May promises a familiar dose of high-class entertainment. The series that would be critical from Indian point of view will be the five-Test rubber against England and the trip Down Under towards the end of the year. Major events:

India vs New Zealand: Jan 19-Feb 19S Africa vs Australia: Feb 12-March 14World T20: BangladeshMarch 16- April 6Indian Premier League: April-MayEngland vs India: July 9-September 7Australia vs India: December

Tennis

An exciting year is in store for tennis buffs, if the end of the 2013 season is anything to go by. Rafael Nadal (picture, right) came back brilliantly from injury to claim the year-end number one ranking from Novak Djokovic and the two will renew their rivalry at the Australian Open this month. 

Djokovic has roped in former world number one Boris Becker as coach and the effect the German has on the Serbian’s game will come under close scrutiny.

Andy Murray has recovered from a back surgery to return to action but it will take time for him to find his feet while the old fox Roger Federer will hope to create a flutter or two, after joining forces with former Swedish master Stefan Edberg.

In the women’s section, Serena Williams has taken off in supremely confident manner, winning the Brisbane International with a commanding win over Maria Sharapova in the semifinals and another convincing performance against Victoria Azarenka. She looks well-nigh unbeatable at the moment and will be eager to add to her Grand Slam collection that stands at 17 now in singles.

Grand Slam events:Australian Open: January 13-26French Open: May 25-June 8Wimbledon: June 23-July 6US Open: August 25-Sept 7Davis Cup: I round: January 31-Feb 2Quarterfinals: April 4-6Semifinals: September 12-14Final: November 14-16

Formula One

It was Sebastian Vettel all the way in 2013, as he kept pushing the boundaries at Formula One circuits around the world. Will it be any different this year? New engines are in place this season and it will be interesting to see how the teams adapt to the change. Given his competitive streak, Vettel will not want to slip up as the four-time world champion looks to add to his collection. The season kicks off, as usual, in Australia on March 16. The calendar:Australian GP: March 16Malaysian GP: March 30 Bahrain GP: April 6Chinese GP: April 20Spanish GP: May 11Monaco GP: May 25Canadian GP: June 8Austrian GP: June 22British GP: July 6German GP: July 20Hungarian GP: July 27Belgian GP: August 24Italian GP: September 7Singapore GP: September 21Japanese GP: October 5Russian GP: October 12United States GP: Nov 2Brazilian GP: Nov 9Abu Dhabi GP: Nov 23
Golf

Will Rory McIlroy roar back? That is the question in golf as the new season kicks off. His engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki should put his personal life in order as the Briton targets more majors. Tiger Woods, as usual, will be lurking, waiting to pounce, after enduring another year without a major.US Masters, Augusta: April 10-13US Open: Pinehurst, NC, June 12-15The Open, Merseyside: July 17-20US PGA: Kentucky: August 7-10Ryder Cup: Gleneagles, Sept 26-29
Games

Winter Olympics: Sochi, Feb 7-23Commonwealth Games: July 23-August 3, GlasgowYouth Olympic Games: Nanjing,         August 12-28Asian Games: Incheon, Sept 19-Oct 4
Badminton

Thomas & Uber Cups: New Delhi,May 18-25

Hockey

World Cup: May 31-June 15: The HagueWorld League Finals: January 10-18: New DelhiHockey India League: Jan 25-Feb 23.Champions Trophy: Dec 13-21Bhubaneshwar

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