It’s safe to say that, of all the sports played in India, cricket is, by far, the most popular. Some of the national team’s recent achievements include the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, the 2011 Cricket World Cup and the 2007 ICC World Twenty20.
History of cricket in India
The earliest reference to cricket in India dates to 1721. A group of English sailors from the East India Company are reported to have played a game at Cambay (close to Baroda). In fact, without the Company’s presence and the subsequent development of the British Raj, cricket may never have emerged in India.
It was not until June 1932, however, that India was able to become a member of the so-called ‘elite club’, made up of England, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies. When India played its very first match in Lords against England, a whopping 24,000 people turned up. Amongst the crowd were both the Indian Emperor and the King of England. Twenty years later, in 1952, India achieved its first Test victory, after playing England in Madras and winning by one innings.
Since the turn of the millennium, India’s national team has gone from strength to strength. At the moment, it is ranked Number One in one day international cricket and number three in Test cricket.
A couple of major developments have contributed to this success. In 2000, the team received a foreign coach for the first time, in the form of John Wright; while, in 2001, Sourav Ganguly became captain. Over the next few years, a period of unprecedented success saw Test victories in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and England.
On the domestic front, an array of competitions keep Indian cricketers busy. These include the Ranji Trophy, which began in 1934 and is the nation’s ‘Cricket Championship’; the Irani Trophy, which has been running since 1959; and the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, which started in 1994.
Like baseball in the US and rugby in Australia, cricket is followed intensely by many members of the Indian population. Public matches are often noisy, rowdy, colourful affairs marked by enormous crowds, fervent support for favourite local or regional teams, and plenty of fanfare. It’s definitely worth attending at least one during a lifetime – just for the cultural experience.
Travelling to India for a cricket match
Are you thinking of travelling to India specifically to see a cricket match? Here’s a few tips. Firstly, be aware that crowds can be rather frenetic. More than a billion people live in India, often in rather cramped urban environments, and any kind of sporting event and/or festival only causes the numbers to swell. It’s definitely a good idea to book your tickets and find hotels near Connaught Place before leaving home.
Secondly, if you’ve never been to India before, do take time to learn a bit about local etiquette. Most importantly, be aware that dress tends to be rather formal and women are expected to keep their flesh covered. It’s best to observe social rules to avoid hassle or unwanted attention.