India’s love for cricket – a history.

In my travels through India, I’ve never come across a sport more popular than cricket. It is an extremely fascinating culture that I want to dive into. I’ll be doing a series of posts to explore Indian cricket culture. Coming from a gaming background, I’ll bring some of my insights into my observations.

Cricket in India has a long history and enjoys lots of importance. This is considered to be an 18th-century colonial import into this country. But with time, it was revered, loved and became a passion and heartthrob for the citizens of the country. Rather, this sport became the very identity of the Indians and is now part of their culture. It is simply impossible to think of life without cricket. Indian cricket without any doubt is considered to be the ‘de facto national game’. It has managed to garner the lion’s share when public attention is concerned. At the same time, it also reigns supreme among all sports and enjoys excellent infrastructural and financial support. On the contrary, other games seem to languish in varying degrees for want of following and support.

This article compares the Indian national teams of hockey and football with that of cricket. This way, it explores the main reasons for cricket to enjoy greater prominence over the sports played here. The contemporary Indian sporting scene reaffirms the dominance of this game. Cricket in India seems to monopolize as well as enjoy public adulation, thereby deriving better financial status. However, other games excluding soccer are found to suffer from stepmotherly treatment.

British colonial legacy

Cricket has its origin in England. It was the officers of the British East India Company who had introduced this game in India. This game started with being a mere entertainment for the British officers. Later on, native Indians who served them took keen interest in this sport. Clement Downing, a British sailor had compiled a book named ‘A History of Indian Wars’ in 1737. He had mentioned the very first cricket match held in India in 1721 between British sailors. The match took place at Khambhat, close to the western seaboard.

With English sports and traditions being introduced in the country, the colonizers managed to have a cultural superiority. They used it to justify their rule over the natives. However, some Indians were involved actively to promote this sport by adopting it.

The Parsis, considered to be an ethnic minority group in India, were enterprising traders having close ties with the British. They were found to be more enthusiastically involved in this sport. They had formed cricket teams by the mid-1800s.

English sports slowly, but steadily surpassed the traditionally played Indian games like local wrestling, etc. concerning popularity. Other pastimes like ‘Kabaddi’ which is regarded to be a team sport got organized in the 1920s similar to English sports. It formed its federations, rules and held formal competitions.

But a fierce debate is found to have ranged concerning this British influence until India got independence in 1947. Cricket contests took place between diverse ethnic groups. The student group during those days viewed such contests to be a ‘slow poison’ for the young minds. They considered it to be a British strategy to divert the youths from the path of Independence. However, local contests witnessed a huge number of native cricket fans flocking the ground to enjoy the game. An annual tournament called the Bombay Pentangular was held between different teams. It comprised of Europeans, Hindus, Parsis, Muslims including people from other minority faiths.

Colonialism to Commerce

India’s thumping win in England in 1971 is considered to be the main turnaround in Indian cricket. The Indian cricket team managed to defeat their former colonizers at their home turf and in their own game. However, the big win came in 1983 when the Indian cricket team under its Captain Kapil Dev managed to win the World Cup. The game was held in London at Lord’s, considered to be the ‘Mecca of cricket’.

Besides enjoying immense success internationally, cricket in India had become a multi-billion dollar industry. The IPL (Indian Premier League) was inaugurated in 2008 and featured a fast-faced variety referred to as Twenty20. These matches are held for about three hours and promote the offensive, aggressive play.

According to International Cricket Council CEO, David Richardson, IPL helped India become the epicenter of the modern cricketing world.

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