Cricket is a strategic team sport played primarily with a bat and a ball. It is played worldwide, but is most popular in the Commonwealth of Nations.
India, a Commonwealth country, is known for its obsession with sports. So much so that the sport can be declared the unofficial religion of India.
In light of the ongoing Indian Premier League, I take the liberty to introduce you to the world of cricket and the crazy cricket culture in India.
How is cricket played?
Cricket is undoubtedly the most complex sport, especially for those who are not already familiar with it.
Cricket is played in teams of 11 players. Two teams compete with each other to score more runs than the other. Each team plays an equal number of innings and the team with the highest number of runs at the end of the innings wins.
Turn , spelled plural, even while referring to the singular, refers to the period in which one team takes a turn at bat. While batting, the opposing team ends their innings by dismissing the batsmen. In total there are ten ways to dismiss a batsman.
At a time there are 11 fielders from one team and 2 batsmen from the other. Depending on the format of the game, a game can have either 1 or 2 innings for each team.
The game starts with the captains of the two teams tossing a coin. This determines which team must bat first.
Other useful cricket jargons
Note: 1 over is equal to 6 deliveries by the bowler.
runs: The runs scored by the batsmen.
Fielder: Players spread across the field to prevent the ball from hitting the boundary, to throw the ball towards the wicket or to catch the ball to dismiss the batsman.
Out: Dismissal of a batsman
Boundary: The periphery of the field passed by an object. If the ball hits the boundary, 4 runs are scored. If it goes over the border, 6 points are scored.
Test matches are the most traditional type of cricket matches. The game is played over a period of 5 days and each team has 2 innings to score runs.
As the name suggests, this format is played within 1 day. Each team gets 1 innings of 50 overs to score their runs.
T20 or Twenty20 is also another type of one-day format but for a shorter duration. Here each team gets 1 innings with 20 overs to score as many runs as possible. This style was invented in 2003, making it the newest format.
Professionally, the game is played on an oval-shaped grass field with a precise 22-yard rectangular pitch in the middle. A wicket is placed at the end of the pitch and white lines indicate the point where the wicket is placed and where the batsmen stand.
The Narendra Modi Stadium in Gujarat, India is the largest cricket stadium in the world. The rectangle in the middle of the field is the 22-yard height.
Cricket ball: The ball is made of cork, leather and string. Cricket balls were traditionally red, but nowadays white balls are used for better visibility. The circumference of the ball may not exceed 22.9 cm.
A traditional red leather white rope ball.
Cricket bat: A wooden bat is usually made of willow and the handle with cane, wood and rubber. The total length of the bat may not exceed 96.5 cm.
Posts: A set of 3 thick wooden logs propped up on the ground with some wooden brackets are placed on top of the posts. If the ball hits the stumps, it will cause the bails to fall, leading to the dismissal of the batsman.
Professional cricket is played by both men’s and women’s teams. However, even in this decade, men’s cricket receives more attention than women’s games.
The International Cricket Council or the ICC is the highest governing body for cricket in the world. Currently there are 104 member states with 12 full members and 92 associate members.
India is one of the full members.
Cricket in India
Although hockey is the national sport, cricket is more popular and celebrated.
Indian teams play both domestically and internationally. The national cricket teams, which represent India internationally, get the most attention.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India or the BCCI is the governing body for cricket in India for both the men’s and women’s teams. It is the body that is a member of the ICC for all three formats of the game.
The Indian men’s cricket team is called the Men in Blue, while the women’s team is called the Women in Blue because of the color of their uniform . Both teams represent India in international cricket.
The men’s team has shown exemplary performances and currently holds world records and titles, thus becoming role models for cricket lovers. So far India has won two one day international world cup titles, one in 2 and another in 1983.
Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli are some of the notable figures.
Sachin Tendulkar, one of the former captains, is another iconic figure and is regarded as one of the greatest cricketers to have ever lived. So much so that Indians call him the God of cricket.
Sachin Tendulkar, former Indian men’s national captain.
The women’s team has also achieved different achievements, especially in the last few years. They became the runners-up in the Women’s One Day International World Cup in 2005 and 2017.
Among the notable figures are Mitali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, Shafali Verma, Jhulan Goswami and Smriti Mandana.
Initially, cricket was considered a sport for the elite, such as royalty and nobility. They would even go on to represent India internationally.
Over time, ordinary people from big cities would play, then, gradually, people from small towns and villages would find their place in the team.
Currently, cricketers who represent India internationally enjoy celebrity status in India. This influences the common people to play cricket in the hope of earning a living and improving their social status.
Brief History of Indian Cricket
Cricket is a legacy of the British imperialists that integrated itself into Indian culture. This is why it is still popular even after its independence in 1947.
The origins of cricket are difficult to trace, but some sources believe it began sometime in the Middle Ages.
It evolved from a simple ancient game called club ball, a game where a ball or a round object would be hit by a stick or a club. The development from the simple club ball to the complex game of cricket is unknown.
The first record of cricket as we know it was played by children of farmers in Weald, South East England in the 16th century.
Illustration of English cricket in the 16th century. Image credit: ICC
Adults first took up the sport in the early 17th century and from there the game evolved into a more structured one, beginning with the concept of village cricket where teams would be formed to play the game. By the 17th century , it had become popular with the local population and cricket lovers would even skip Sunday church for a game.
Cricket was also played by the British royalty and the upper classes. However, their way of playing was more sophisticated. This is why it is also known as a gentleman’s game.
Soon cricket became a medium through which people belonging to the lower social classes were taught to be gentlemen.
Cricket reached the English colonies around the world between the 17th and 19th century by British traders becoming colonists. It was during this period that it reached India.
In the 18th century, the English in the area began to build settlements in the port areas, paving the way for them to return to their homelands by sea.
1721: One of the British ships stops at the west coast of India. There the sailors would play cricket to amuse themselves in their spare time. The local onlookers noticed this new kind of game and were immediately fascinated by it.
1751: The first recorded match in India was between the British Army and the English Residents in India.
1792: Inauguration of the Calcutta Cricket Club by the British, making it the second oldest cricket club in England after the Marylebone Cricket Club.
1848: The first Indian team was created in present-day Mumbai when the Parsi community founded the Oriental Cricket Club. This team inspired the formation of other local teams and thus expressed India’s interest in cricket. These teams would play locally and were even invited to play in the UK.
The 1870s: Educated Bengalis would play it and introduce it to other Indians. Within a decade, Indians would be playing cricket matches across the country. With more of their presence in the following centuries, the British would teach cricket in Indian schools.
1932: India played its first Test match against England at the iconic Lords Cricket Stadium in London.
1947: Many Indians believed that cricket would disappear with the British in India after its independence. However, the game has continued to grow in popularity since then. People from different social strata started participating in the games and it eventually became a part of Indian identity and culture.
The 1970s: The Women’s Cricket Association was formed in 1973 and they played their first Test match against West Indies in 1976 in Bangalore. And their first One Day International in 1978 in Kolkata.
The 1990s: With the advent of satellite TV and an increasing participation and interest rate, the sport’s popularity accelerated.
2006: Women’s team played their first T20 in 2006 in Derby, England. This is also the year when the Women’s Cricket Association was incorporated into the BCCI.
The popularity of cricket in India
There are several factors that contribute to the popularity of cricket in India. The following mentions some of them:
- When in the early 1900s Sir Ranjitsinhji, ruler of one of the Indian princely states, started playing for the English cricket team. People in his country really celebrated his participation.
- India’s achievements in the 1970s, defeating the West Indies and the English team, were recognized around the world.
- India won the one-day international world cup in 1983 and 2011, historic events for India.
Team India held the Cricket World Cup trophy in 1983. Image credit: The Bridge
- Radio and the liberalization of the TV industry in the 90s reached a wider audience, which not only included existing cricket lovers, but attracted men, women and children unfamiliar with the game to gain interest.
- Bollywood films like Lagaan cricket and the anti-colonial sentiment to create a sense of nationalistic pride.
- The BCCI has adequate financial resources and has been successful in promoting cricket in India.
- The advent of IPL or the Indian Premier League, one of the biggest sporting events in the world, is hosted in India. The IPL is discussed in detail later in the post. Keep reading.
- Although the rules are complicated for anyone unfamiliar with cricket, the game is simple. Simple in the sense that only a bat and a ball are needed to play the game and it can be played anywhere, even in small spaces.
The Indian Premier League
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is an annual T20 cricket event created by the BCCI in 2008, inspired by the American National Basketball Association (NBA). This event is organized between March and May.
The shorter T20 style and the concept of supporting the team of your choice based on Indian cities became an instant hit among Indians. It attracted an even larger audience and in many cases even turned non-fans into fans.
The company has a franchise-based system where local and international players are auctioned to 8 city franchises owned by businessmen and celebrities. Each team has a budget of almost $11 million to recruit players, making it one of the most funded sporting events on the planet. In the auction, the players are offered based on their skill, international cricket performance, injury history, relationship with the designated coach, among others.
IPL Auction. Image Credit: Indian Express
As of 2020, the BCCI earns around $540 million from the event alone. This shows that even a global pandemic cannot hamper the importance of cricket in India.
IPL is seen worldwide as even international players participate in the games. It is regarded as the best domestic cricket league and has seriously influenced the way fans and players experience the T20 cricket experience.
Cricket Culture in India
Cricket is often known as India’s unofficial religion. It is literally worshiped by some in the country.
Everyone enjoys cricket in India, regardless of age, gender, religion and social class, and they are always watching it. Their lives revolve around cricket.
note: The intention here is not to stereotype Indians or their behavior. These observations are only applicable to die-hard cricket fans in India.
Indians even schedule their days based on the match schedules. During the World Cup, people call in sick from work to watch the game. Some companies arrange projectors and screens for the office to watch matches so they don’t skip work. Some even take leave and arrange vacations based on the game schedules.
People buy tickets early to get the best seats at the stadium. And if for some reason they cannot be physically at the stadium, there is always the television at home.
Children even become more distracted than usual during important matches and sneakily watch cricket matches instead of doing their homework.
Homemakers finish their tasks early to watch cricket matches. People leave their dishes in the sink and even skip making meals for the sake of watching cricket. They would rather order takeout.
In the more rural parts of India, there are still households that do not have their own TV. However, someone in the town or community will have at least one. So, everyone gathers in front of the communal TV and they watch the game together.
People gathered in front of a small communal TV to watch cricket in rural.
Their eyes are glued to the television screen and their ears, listening intently to the commentary while their hands slowly hold snacks and hot, cold or alcoholic drinks in front of them.
Occasional gasps and loud cheers when the batsmen hit the ball.
Interrupting their little viewing party would be a big mistake indeed.
Achievements by the Indian national team are celebrated like other religious festivals in India. People play the drums on the street, dance, light fireworks and cheer with a cutout of the star players, or proudly wave the Indian flag.
Children and even adults play it all the time in the streets, in the parks, in alleys, in parking lots, in the hallway, in school and even in their bedrooms.
Gully cricket, an improvised form of the sport played on the streets, is the average Indian child’s sport of choice. In this game, the rules of cricket are not rigid and the equipment can be replaced with anything from twigs, to paper balls and even shoes.
Children playing trench cricket in the streets of India. Here the rubber band is improvising while the wicket is bumping.
As mentioned earlier, cricketers who play in the men’s national team enjoy celebrity status. As such, they are featured on huge billboards and TV commercials for all sorts of products, from construction materials to mutual funds, to matrimonial sites, to apps. You name it.
Cricket is, in its truest sense, India’s national obsession.
Impact of Cricket on Indian Youth
The popularity of the IPL, telecasting of women’s cricket on TV and other types of cricket matches are inspiring the Indian youth to increase their participation in not only cricket but also all types of sports.
However, compared to other sports, cricket has more coaching institutions in the country, attracting young talent from across the country and maintaining the quality of sports for the future. Even in gully cricket, the Indian teams have found exceptional talent in the field.
Finally, if more young people participate in sports, they will stay physically and psychologically healthy. They can then carry India forward and perhaps transform the nation into a more developed one.
So it is:
Achievements in sports not only make the citizens of a country proud, but it is also in fact an indicator of the progress and development of a country. It is often seen that the more developed countries perform better in sports as they are able to provide the necessary resources for their enrichment.
Sport greatly benefits physical and psychological well-being, meaning that countries with a prominent sporting culture are more likely to be healthier. Good health equates to a productive and capable population, thus influencing the growth of a nation.
Sports are played not only for fitness or entertainment, but also as a way to earn money and develop important life skills such as strategy, teamwork. It also helps with social interactions and promotes positive attitudes.
Sport allows different people and communities to come together and interact with each other. Therefore, put aside each other’s differences and help the world to overcome social problems such as discrimination, ignorance, stereotypes.
In India, cricket is the only other thing that helps to unite the diverse population after tea . When India plays against other countries, Indians put aside their differences, come together and support the team without thinking about the players’ cultural background.