So, as we all know cricket needs no introduction, it's so popular, but have you ever wondered why? It won't be wrong to say that Cricket resides in the heart of every Indian. It is honestly very surprising and equally undeniable how cricket has emerged over the last few centuries and beaten every other sport in terms of popularity, and there must be a reason for that. Or should I say, reasons?
1. How Cricket was brought to India
This might be a great factor in explaining the popularity of Cricket today. Cricket has been around from the 13th century, but it made its way to India in the 17th century when India was ruled by the British. They were the ones who started playing the sport in the country, which resulted in the formation of local teams. The first Cricket club named 'Oriental Cricket Club' was formed in 1848 and marked the birth of Cricket in India. After that new teams start to emerge, and in around 50-60 years, religion-based teams were playing against each other organizing match leagues, in which the Britishers also participated. It's no surprise that Indians enjoyed defeating Britishers on at least something, even if it was a sport back then, as they were ruling all over our country, there was obviously something really satisfying about it, which made our players really excel at the game, and also lead to the rise of a great player like Sir Ranjitsinhji. His name still is alive, as the very famous Ranji Trophy is named after him.
2. The death and rebirth
There were lows for Cricket in India too, when it almost died and this period continued for a long period of time. This doesn't mean we stopped playing it, we were just underperforming compared to every other team out there. We were beaten down, humiliated, and what not. It felt like we had lost world-class players, until, one day, a new man emerged, who was destined to pull back Indian Cricket out of the gutter, and breath life into it. That man was none other than Sunil Gavaskar. This was 1971 and India marked its first victory against the Cricket giant West Indies in a test match. After that India had built a reputation for itself in international test Cricket, but then ODI came into existence, and India was struggling again to maintain the balance between playing defensive and playing aggressively in the limited overs of ODIs. While India was doing good in test cricket, the performance in ODIs was not just upto the mark, and the defensive test match gameplay was of no use against other teams' aggressive batting and bowling lineups. It took almost 12 years and Kapil Dev's mind-blowing captaincy to lead India to win the World Cup in 1983. The first match of the tournament, which they won against the two times World Cup champions West Indies boost up their confidence and eventually, they won the tournament.
3. The God of Cricket
The title "God of Cricket" is very much similar to "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." It's sufficient to understand who exactly is being referred to here, literally no extra piece of information is required. Voldemort must have done some terrible and great things to be rewarded with that title, but Sir Sachin Tendulkar just did great things to make us all realize how God is made. I think it's only right to state that more than half of the people who are fond of Cricket today in India started watching it just to watch Sachin bat. I remember my grandfather shutting down the TV as soon as Sachin went back to the pavilion, and I am certain that it wasn't the case with just my family. Sachin revolutionized the standards of Indian Cricket. That probably was the first time in history of India that a player emerged and became No. 1, the best of the best, and the whole world acknowledged it and made him the God of the game, which in my opinion is the biggest reward and honour that has been given to any player in the history Cricket till date, and he deserved nothing less than that. Sachin was spectacular to watch. The way he played, so flawless, so raw, so natural, the way he carried his spirit and made it reflect on his batting, we all witnessed it. He's the reason I fell in love with the game.
There was an Indian at the top of the leaderboard back then, and there is an Indian at the top of the leaderboard today too, Virat Kohli, and let's hope India keeps on giving birth to players who lead the world in the future too.
4. The grandeur of BCCI and the IPL factor
It might come as a surprise to a lot of you, but BCCI is the biggest cricketing board in the entire world. It's even bigger than ICC in terms of revenue, and that says a lot. As a result, our players are well treated, well paid, and get everything they are deserving of. A lot of young aspirants who one day aspire to be a cricketer are not hesitant about giving it all of the hard work, because they know, if they made it, they are gonna be big, not just rich, but big.
Another interesting factor came as a complete surprise - the Indian Premier League. The concept was unique, and only BCCI had the kind of prowess to pull it off. The idea was to make the foreign players play along with the Indian players by creating teams and have them compete against each other. I mean, who could even imagine seeing Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting opening together, playing together, from the same team, with the same motive, it was literally historical. So was watching Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers on the crease together, who were the best-ranked players in world ranking leaderboard. IPL made impossible things possible, and as the popularity grew, so did BCCI, and IPL is one of the most famous and most watched leagues in Cricket today.
5. Cricket is a great sport
Cricket isn't just a game about hitting a ball beyond the circular boundary with a bat. Cricket tests sportsmen beyond their skills and gameplay. No cricket fan loves his favorite cricket fans just for their gameplay. They also love cricketers for the attitude they carry on and off the field, their dedication to play fair and square, and treat the other team with respect. Cricketers are not just good players of the sport, but also great humans, which you'll find true about every cricketer out there. I hope, we'll see more players emerging from India, and creating and history. The stage is big, the opportunities are innumerous, and there's nowhere but to go forward.