Previewing India's Fixtures, Schedule and Goals for 2014
Although India got off to a sluggish start against South Africa during their tour last year, their young players showed they are not the flat-track bullies many believe they are.
Although their performances in the one-day game weren't entirely convincing, they looked reasonably capable in the Test series and pushed South Africa all the way.
This year holds a few tough challenges for India with the highlight being a lengthy tour to England. Here's a look at what 2014 holds for the Indian cricket team.
Fixture: Tour to New Zealand
Dates: 19 January - 18 February 2014
India begin the year with a trip to New Zealand.
The tour consists of five one-day internationals and two Tests. The Black Caps have shown they can put up a good fight in one-day cricket, so the first challenge for the world champions is to knock them off their perch.
India's biggest task is to get their young limited-overs bowlers in check. That is the biggest challenge—to find the pacemen who can back up the spinners and take wickets consistently.
The Test series offers another challenge for the young batsmen to prove they are not the flat-track bullies they are often made out to be.
New Zealand is a tricky place to tour. While the grounds are small, the conditions are sluggish and interference from the weather is likely.
India must win both series and settle the debate on their ability to perform away from home.
Fixture: World T20
Dates: 21 March - 6 April 2014
During the World T20 of 2012, India topped their group in the initial stages, but were dumped out during the Super Eights despite losing just one game.
This year's tournament starts them off against Pakistan and then the West Indies. A match against a qualifying team will follow, before their run in the group stage ends with a clash against Australia.
It's a pretty tough run. Making it out of the group will be their first goal.
Fixture: Indian Premier League
Dates: Not yet known
In terms of timing, it probably would have been better if the IPL took place prior to the World T20.
This would have given India's players and a number of other internationals some time in the middle to get settled and find some form.
Alas, it's not to be.
The exact dates of the IPL have not been announced. There is also a chance the tournament could be moved out of India due to elections taking place.
It's not so much a fixture for team India, but it is a massive chunk of the schedule for many Indian players.
The goal for the tournament? Make sure all the star Test players go through it unscathed.
Fixture: Tour to England
Dates: 26 June - 7 September 2014
The last time India toured England, they were smashed 4-0. When England toured India last year, it was similar story.
However, it's a completely different scenario now.
England are fresh off an Ashes hammering, with just a few Tests against Sri Lanka to prepare them before the start of this very, very long tour.
Both teams are somewhere between a transitional phase and a phase of accepting they simply aren't very good.
India and England will slog it out for five Test matches. India's goal will be to win the series. They have a real chance of doing so, too. With a wealth of new talent and an England team on the back foot, India can get some revenge for their previous outing in the country.
There are also five one-day internationals and one T20 to think about, but they are very much secondary to the big challenge of five Tests.
Goal: Unearth a Real Pace Prospect
Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar showed some promise during India's recent tour to South Africa, but they are not quite there yet.
Finding, nurturing and growing a real pace prospect is key for India—with Ishant Sharma continuously blowing hot and cold, and Zaheer Khan heading into his final years.
They have at least two players with the potential. How they are treated to make sure they reach their full potential will be crucial.
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