“In India, Cricket isn’t just a sport, it’s a religion. Sachin is the God of cricket.” These were the words of Australian cricket legend Steve Waugh, during his visit to India. Cricket is not the national sport of India yet it is a festival, a celebration, and an emotion to millions in the country.
One among every five kids envisions playing cricket for India and it perfectly portrays the level of passion for the game in a cricket frenzy country. So what makes the game so special in India?
What is it about cricket that makes it so special?
On the 25th of June in 1983, the identity of cricket in India changed forever. India won the 1983 Cricket World Cup for the very first time, a feat that took the world by storm and every Indian was proud of the accomplishment. The Indian cricket team backed up the World Cup triumph with the World Championship Trophy in 1985. Cricket never remained just a sport thereafter.
Why was cricket more special than other sports?
The Indian hockey team has won 6 golds in a row and 10 medals altogether in the span of 54 years i.e. from 1928 to 1972. It is by far the biggest achievement by India in the world of sports. So why isn’t hockey celebrated as much as cricket?
India won the gold medal at the 1980 Olympics but since then the Indian hockey team has fared rather poorly in world tournaments. Unfortunately, its downfall coincided with the rise of cricket in India. As time progressed, cricket was preferred to hockey and eventually every other sport.
From Better to Best!
With the upsurge in Indian cricket responsible for the 1987 World Cup to be staged in India, the game became even more popular. The tournament turned out to be a massive success and millions in the sub-continent took to the sport. During this period, India wasn't successful in any sport but cricket. So the game became even more special in the hearts of Indians.
By the end of the 20th century, broadcasting had improved by leaps and bounds, and so had the performances of the Indian cricket team. Fans were able to enjoy those great performances with much better visuals on the television. It led to the game becoming even more popular and by 2005, cricket in India had become "the unofficial religion."
With each passing day, the love and passion for cricket have increased exponentially. Inarguably the legacy of Indian cricket has been carried out majoritively by cricketers, but in no way can the fans' share be discounted.
Until 1983, cricket was just any other sport in India. The triumph in the World Cup was the cornerstone in the history of Indian sport and the beginning of a love affair between cricket and India.
Furthermore, the rise of the maestro Sachin Tendulkar, the great Indian team under the exceptional leadership of Sourav Ganguly, followed by the 2007 T20, the 2011 ODI World Cup & 2013 Champions Trophy triumph under MS Dhoni and finally the IPL fueled the passion between cricket and its fans in India.
Passing the baton of the legacy of Indian cricket to successive generations has played a significant role in shaping cricket’s identity from time to time. Every generation has carried the legacy with grace and passed it onto the right hands immaculately.
Add to that the passion of cricket lovers in India and you will understand why the game is so much more than just a sport. Fans have played a vital role in shaping cricket’s identity. They have not only enjoyed the game of cricket but have also celebrated the accomplishments of cricketers. From Sunil Gavaskar to Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar to Rahul Dravid, from M.S. Dhoni to Virat Kohli, and even from Mithali Raj to Smriti Mandhana, the fans have adored and revered every player as nothing short of cricketing idols.