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A Look at Cricket’s History in India

At SomruS, we celebrate all things Indian, and with summer officially upon us, we thought we’d take a look at how India likes to play. While soccer is by far the most popular sport in the world, in India, it takes the back seat to cricket. Cricket can be traced back to the Tudor period of England in the early 16th century, but it’s a fairly new transplant to India. Not that we don’t have our own tradition of even more ancient games. Fun fact: it’s thought that chess, card playing and snooker all originated in India. But getting back on topic, what Indian cricket lacks in historical longevity, they more than make up for it by regularly kicking ass.

As Britain’s colonial empire spread throughout the 1800s, cricket followed, eventually finding a new audience in India. The rules? The rules are fairly complex and the subject of another (long) article, but for a nation newly dragged into the western world in the mid-1800s, cricket eventually proved to be a popular pastime. For starters, all you need are a bat, a ball, a flat field and at least two people. That’s all it takes for you and a friend to begin to acquire the necessary skills. When you consider how specialized other sports are in terms of equipment, or space requirements (we’re looking at you, golf) you can see why sports like cricket or soccer are so much easier to adopt. Plus, it’s not a particularly demanding sport. You run a bit, then you rest. It’s similar to baseball in that it’s not particularly strenuous, and in India’s intense heat, that’s not a bad thing. Here, look at this guy.

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This is Maharaja of Vizianagaram—the only Indian Test cricketer to be knighted by the English crown. While that’s an amazing accomplishment, he managed this feat with the build of a modestly successful chartered accountant. You have to admire that. That’s something we can all aspire to. This man is a knight. Are you a knight? We’re not.

And while we’re on the subject of notable Indian cricketers, check out Abbas Ali Baig.

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During a Test match against Australia in 1960, a pretty young lady ran onto the field to kiss him on his cheek. He was the first Indian cricketer kissed DURING a Test match. Undoubtedly, there have been cricketers with more impressive stats. No, he’s not a knight. But honestly, Abbas Ali Baig wins. Because that’s possibly one of the best firsts any athlete in any sport could hope for.

Joking aside, once India gained independence from Britain, being able to beat the English (and their other colonies) at their own game became a deep matter of national pride, and the sport has only gained in popularity since 1947. For many years, we were an underdog team, but after the 1983 World Cup win over the heavily favored West Indies team, more and more Indians began to embrace the sport, and it’s slowly become another essential thread in the fabric of Indian culture.