One of the more consistent sides at the international level currently, India has progressed massively as a cricketing nation ever since formally starting at the highest stage with a Test match against England in 1932. From Colonel CK Nayudu, India's first captain, to the incumbent Virat Kohli, India have touched great heights under great men who have competed and won against the best in the world.
The sixth team to be granted Test match status, India's first win in the longest format came in 1952, when they defeated England at Madras (now Chennai) in the fifth and final match to level the series 1-1. That was the beginning of a long road of success, fittingly led by one of the finest all-rounders in Vinoo Mankad, who took 8/55 in the first innings and another four in the match to set up an innings win. Other respected names who were a part of that victory included captain Vijay Hazare, one of India's best batsmen who now has the domestic one-day tournament named after him; Lala Amarnath, whose sons Surinder and Mohinder would follow suit in representing the country; and the burly Polly Umrigar, who could play all the shots in the book even in those days.
Quietly, a bunch of unknowns and under-rated cricketers started gaining recognition in the world with the rise of talents like MAK Pataudi, Vijay Manjarekar, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. The 1970's brought about one of the most successful spin-bowling partnerships the world has yet witnessed: off-spinner Srinivas Venkataraghavan, who would go on to lead India in the World Cups in 1975 and 1979; left-armer Bishan Singh Bedi; leg-spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and another off-break bowler in Erapalli Prasanna.
On the other hand, the batting boasted of Gavaskar; Kapil, who was one of the four fantastic all-rounders in those days; Dilip Vengsarkar and Mohinder Amarnath. All of the four would then go on to lift the 1983 World Cup – a bewildering triumph against the most unlikely of oppositions in the final. The moment the last West Indies wicket fell and they stopped short of the Indian total, a new era had dawned in Indian cricket.
The nation's new found heroes had suddenly forced the world to sit up and take notice of the ability prevelant in Indian cricket; the historic achievement had given birth to an abrupt interest in a game which the then younger generation began taking seriously once India were crowned champions; and a proud Kapil lifting the most coveted trophy at the Lord's balcony inspired hundreds of aspiring cricketers to believe that they too belonged.
Two years later, the men under Gavaskar brought home the World Championship of Cricket trophy, beating arch-rivals Pakistan in the final. In the late 1980's, when the dominating opener Gavaskar bid goodbye to the game arrived a modern legend in Sachin Tendulkar. The short but impactful teenager served Indian cricket for 24 years, ending a career where he had all international records in his possession across Test and ODI cricket. On his way to unfathomable greatness, Tendulkar scripted one memorable knock after another, forming a part of the Fab Four of the Indian middle-order, where the others were Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly.
Unfortunately, the early twenty first century saw Indian cricket stung by the match-fixing scandal, paving the way for the exit of the talismanic Mohammad Azharuddin, but Ganguly expertly held together a broken unit to blossom a golden period for the sport in the country. Under him, an attitude of aggression was blodded in the players who learnt how to meet the opposition eye in the eye. India had cracked the code of winning abroad, most famously outplaying England in the Leeds Test and Australia at Adelaide in 2002 and 2003, respectively. On South African soil in early 2003, India made it to the World Cup final, and the following year, Pakistan were beaten 2-1 in their own backyard for the first time in a Test series.
But the foundation stone of those rich results was laid by the win in the famous Calcutta Test against Australia in 2001, which was pioneered by a monstrous partnership of 376 between Dravid and Laxman, as India won convincingly despite following on. Very soon, even the shortest format was conquered by them when a group of streetsmart youngsters led by MS Dhoni lifted the T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007.
Four years later, the growth under Dhoni would result in India being crowned world champions with the World Cup win at home; and come 2013, he would add the Champions Trophy to his kitty too, where India went unbeaten in all five matches.
The powerhouse of modern international cricket, the BCCI's tireless efforts and investments have gone a long way in India sitting above the rest in terms of financial powers and to some extent, influence in world cricket. They have successfully managed to convince the ICC in allocatting a separate window for the lucrative annually-conducted IPL, a tournament which kickstarted franchise-based T20 leagues across the globe where top cricketers are chased with desperate interest.
Indeed, Indian cricket has come a long way since the days of CK Nayudu, with Virat Kohli now responsible for the current generation, the base for whom has been built by their predecesors since 1932.
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