From CSK's return to Federer's 20th: ESPN India's 2018 wishlist

A new year brings new hopes, renewed resolutions and higher expectations. Here's what ESPN India editors want to see in 2018.

Sharda Ugra

Sharda Ugra is a senior editor for ESPN India and ESPNcricinfo.

A new sports code

The latest version of the sports code - National Code for Good Governance in Sports 2017 - is a game changer that must be pushed through. Formally, officially and institutionally, it brings the athlete and his sport in the centre of our sporting administration. Through the choice of professionalization over the old mai-baap sporting officialdom, the NCGGS2017 makes demands that many sports officials have successfully dodged for decades: of being financially self-sustaining, offering athletes of across gender and ability a regular annual sporting calendar of events and strengthening their sport in schools, clubs, states. And moving on from fair elections if proven unwilling or unable to do so.

India's current sports minister was always an athlete even before he was armyman and politician, and has seen the entire gamut of the Indian athlete experience. Rajyavardhan Rathore has promised us the Code is being built. Actually, his own ministry has already built it. All he has to do is unlock the door and LET IT OUT.

Last year's prediction: The return of Saina Nehwal

Debayan Sen

Debayan Sen is senior assistant editor for ESPN India.

High hopes for Indian hockey

2018 is a big year for Indian hockey - with Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the World Cup for Indian teams of both gender. India should have a good campaign in both multi-nation hockey events - victory in Jakarta will also seal up Olympic qualification for both teams - but it is the World Cups that I hope they make their biggest impression in. The Indian women should back themselves for at least a run till the quarterfinals in London over the summer, and the men must look for a podium finish in Bhubaneswar in December. If they can go all the way and emulate Ajitpal Singh's team of 1975, it could actually be the biggest fillip for the sport globally, as the Indian influence on world hockey's economy is big and would see an increase.

Last year's prediction: World football comes to India

Gaurav Rai

Gaurav Rai is an assistant editor for ESPN India.

Mission South Africa

The lack of a Test series win in South Africa is one of the bigger holes on the Indian team's CV. They have the chance to rectify that in the first month of the new year itself. Although the hosts should be near full strength -- AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn both returned to the squad recently -- India are right to dream: they are the No.1 Test side and their fast bowling attack is looking good. The last time India played three Tests in South Africa, the series ended in a draw. Here's hoping the visitors go one better this time.

Last year's prediction: A post-Lodha BCCI

Debdatta Sengupta

Debdatta Sengupta is a sub-editor for ESPN India.

#R20GER Federer

When 2017 began, little did anyone think of Roger Federer when they predicted winners for the upcoming Majors. What happened next took everyone by surprise. Federer, with his silky forehand and stunning backhand, took away not one, but two Grand Slam titles, taking his all-time (great) tally to 19. I hope 2018 will be no different as Federer, with his current cautious-but-sublime form, would take his tally to that astonishing round figure of 20. And who knows? Maybe even more.

Last year's prediction: Kidambi Srikanth to take the next step

Manoj Bhagavatula

Manoj Bhagavatula is a sub-editor for ESPN India.

India's singles players in Grand Slam main draws

Despite a win against Gael Monfils in the Citi Open, and a fighting show against Kevin Anderson in the QF, Yuki Bhambri didn't make a single Grand Slam main draw this year. While his year-end ranking of 116 wasn't high enough for direct entry to the Australian Open, Bhambri said direct entry to the French Open is a "realistic goal" for 2018. It could also be an achievable goal for Ramkumar Ramanathan, who recorded his own upset win this year by beating Dominic Thiem in a grasscourt tournament ahead of Wimbledon and ended the year ranked 148.

Main-draw entry will be much tougher for the likes of Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Sumit Nagal due to their ranking in the 200s, but the qualifying route is still a possibility, especially for Nagal, who showed promise in winning the season-ending Bengaluru Open Challenger title.

Last year's prediction: Another great Sania year

Mohit Shah

Mohit Shah is a sub-editor for ESPN India.

Badminton gold at Asian Games

Badminton has been a part of every Asian Games since 1958 but India has failed to win a single Gold or silver medal at the continent's showpiece event. While Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu have both won an Olympic medal, 2018 will probably be India's best chance to enter the long elusive final at Asian Games with Kidambi Srikanth and Sindhu being at the peak of their powers. The tournament might also be the last Asian Games for Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. While Lin would be looking to complete an unprecedented hat-trick, the Indians will fancy their chances of scripting history.

Last year's prediction: Sindhu to break into top 5

Arjun Namboothiri

Arjun Namboothiri is a sub-editor for ESPN India.

Competitive friendlies, transparency

I hope there is an increase in footballing intelligence in the Indian players. They have the quality, but with the 2019 AFC Asian cup in mind, they must play more internationals against superior opposition, not with below-par, handpicked opponents. The rosy picture painted due to the surge in rankings is partly due to wins against average opponents under favourable conditions. Playing against Australia, Iran and Japan won't be the same as thrashing Puerto Rico and Macau.

This next wish might not come true, but I hope India gets a transparent and honest football federation. We should do away with football administrators' political connections. And also with false releases claiming how bravely the Indian U-17s beat the swanky Italian U-17s. For once they should say it how it is, and like the BCCI, try to be transparent in all operations.

Last year's prediction: Road to Tokyo 2020

Anuj Vignesh

Anuj Vignesh is a senior sub-editor for ESPN India.

Return of the Kings

It speaks volumes of how much the credibility of the IPL has fallen in recent years that this should even make a wish-list, but a corruption and controversy-free league in 2018 would mean the world to an eagerly anticipating bunch from Chennai, who have been deprived of yellow for the last two years. The IPL isn't exactly held in the highest esteem by cricket purists and is largely (and perhaps rightly) seen as a cynical cash-grab, but there is no doubting the special place Chennai Super Kings occupies among the hearts of its fans. Come April, if and when MS Dhoni returns to take strike at Chepauk amid deafening roars from the Lion's Den, it will be a cathartic moment of pride and redemption for an entire city waiting to prove a point.

Last year's prediction: One country, one football league

Saket Parekar

Saket Parekar is senior sub-editor for ESPN India.

More Indian footballers in Europe

India's group-stage thrashing in the U17 World Cup was a sobering reminder of the gulf between the quality of football in India and the rest of the world. The differences are further highlighted by examples of players like Phil Foden, England's U17 WC hero, who trains, and even plays, with world-class players at Manchester City, whereas much of the Indian U17 team is now part of Indian Arrows team in the I-League, a competition several tiers below the world's top leagues.

Nevertheless, the best chances of bridging the gulf lie at the junior level. India's future stars stand to gain more from playing even in a lower-division league in Europe than by playing anywhere in India. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is the only senior player recently who took that step, going so far as to start a Europa League qualifier with Stabaek FC in 2016. More players should do the same, and at a much younger age.

Last year's prediction: One well-run football league