Cricket is, without question, the most popular sport in India. From the grassroots to the elite level and everything else in between, cricket captures the nation’s attention. Official statistics from the International Cricket Council (ICC) prove that. Viewing figures for the 2019 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup were better than they’ve ever been, with the average cumulative audience being 1.6 billion. That figure was 38% higher than 2015’s tournament, and, of those that tuned in, Indians were the most voracious viewers.
Platforms such as Hotstar saw more than 25 million people watch India’s games. For India’s clash with Pakistan, a staggering 273 million unique viewers tuned in, 233 million of which were Indian. After the final ball had been bowled, India’s TV and digital broadcast platforms had attracted an overall viewership of 545 million. That, by any standards, is impressive.
India’s Passion for Cricket Runs Deep
Viewing figures are great, but the real measure of India’s passion for cricket can be found in the infrastructure that surrounds it. We know many of the world’s finest cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli come from India. However, they didn’t spring up out of nowhere. Aspiring pros are nurtured in the amateur ranks through training courses, local clubs, and academies. From the Karnataka Institute of Cricket in Bangalore to New Delhi’s Madan Lal Cricket Academy, players can get expert tuition from pros and elite-level coaches.
Some would say that the focus on cricket is too intense. With millions wanting to play, watch, and be involved in the game, everything else takes second place. That’s why Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Shri Kiren Rijiju has increased funding for other sports. In 2020, he pledged Rs 67.32 crore to the Khelo India Centre of Excellence (KISCE). That money will help find and develop “Olympic level talent” by improving academies, stadiums, and facilities for sports such as basketball, football, and athletics. But, even with these enhanced provisions, cricket continues to dominate.
Modern Technology Increases Cricket’s Appeal
Even when you look beyond the game itself, cricket touches other aspects of modern life. Indeed, the recent rise of online gaming has shown that. Cricketers such as MS Dhoni and Chris Gayle have become brand ambassadors for India’s growing network of poker sites. Alongside these platforms, cricket betting sites are cashing in on India’s love for the game. As well as offering odds on the latest matches, these sites provide secure payment options, mobile apps, and coverage of major events such as the IPL T20. This coverage not only includes betting lines but statistics, results, game previews, and, in some cases, live streams.
For all intents and purposes, cricket betting sites have become sporting hubs where customers go to make bets and be entertaining in equal measure. And, again, their rise to prominence demonstrates the popularity of cricket in India. International companies have entered the market and immediately spotted an opportunity to engage customers through cricket. That’s resulted in money being put into covering the sport from all angles. The upshot is that cricket now has a much larger infrastructure around it – naturally, the sport itself remains the draw. However, those in love with it can now get their fill in a multitude of ways.
Cricket Will Always be India’s Game
The popularity of cricket is clear, but the question is why? Investment, infrastructure, and institutionalisation are three key reasons. In all walks of life, cricket is seen as a standard. Add to this a wealth of talent and, in turn, role models, and the game is never far from the public’s consciousness. Of course, all of this stems back to the 18th century. The first recorded match was in 1712 between a group of sailors and, within a matter of years, it was enjoyed by the British Empire’s elite residing in India.
Today, cricket is a sport for the masses. It may have once been enjoyed by the wealthy, but the game has no boundaries in the modern world. From the poorest to the richest, almost everyone in India loves cricket and engages with it in some way or another. Other sports may be given a chance to shine in the coming years through increased exposure and investment. However, just as football dominates in the UK, cricket will forever be India’s game.