The most popular Indian pastime- no, not street
food, not Bollywood, not bargaining…definitely not eve teasing! We’re speaking of the most
thrilling pastime of it all- Indian Cricket! Although we like to think that it began with
gilli-danda, most Historians agree that cricket, as we know it, came to India with English
sailors in the 1700s. Of course, English, or rather, East India Company, were in India
for (cough!) trade. Since the English played the game, all the
important English spots- Calcutta,Madras and Bombay became cricketing zones.
Cricket clubs started getting formed all over the country. But the clubs were all-white
clubs with a bunch of English playing against each other.
Then slowly the wealthy Indians started playing the game. See, whatever the English did was
cool back then, so if they played cricket, so would the other cool folks in India.
The first to play with the English were the Parsis. They also became the first Indians
to tour England.The Parsis and English were having regular tournaments in Bombay. Not
to be outdone, the Hindu Maharajas started forming their own teams. A Hindu cricketing
club, “Bombay Union”, was formed in…Bombay. So now we had a triangular series in Bombay.
Hindu cricketers sorted themselves on the lines of caste and region of origin.
Now, of course, Muslims too wanted to compete, making it the Bombay Quadrangular series.
But even then, many sections of Indians were left out in this communal cricket. So all
the others joined as a group called “The Rest”. Thus we had the Bombay Pentangular series!
See, cricket had a lot of drama even before IPL!
Gradually some Europeans started touring India. Popularity of the game grew. Meanwhile two
Indians Ranjitsinghji and Duleepsinhji were proving themselves to be cricketers of great
merit in England. Now both of these wonderful cricketers played
for England. Then, in 1932, led by C.K. Nayudu, India made its test debut in England.
But from there till around 1950s, we were still considered a “weak” team. Although
domestically, we were gearing up for better days- BCCI was formed, Ranji trophy was started.
1952 saw two landmark victories for us- 1st test victory against England and 1st series
victory against Pakistan. In the coming years, we were considered a
force to be reckoned with on home territory. We had legends like Tiger Pataudi, Bishan
Singh Bedi, EAS Prasanna, Gundappa Viswanath and many others.
In the 1970s globally cricket was transitioning from test matches to One Day cricket. And
we were finding it a bit tough to go with the new trend.
This too was about to change. 1980s brought Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Kris
Srikkanth, Madan Lal and a wave of cricketing masters we worship today. India was becoming
good at the game. Still, in 1983, West Indies were the thought
to be the best team. We were nowhere close. So just imagine the thrill when Kapil and
team lifted the world cup defeating the mighty West Indies! It was the most spectacular,
most memorable event ever. The whole nation went bonkers! Cricket in India had finally
arrived. And the rest, as they say, is an oft repeated and treasured History!