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Comparing the Popularity of Cricket in India vs Other Sports

India embraces Cricket as its top televised and attended sport, but also supports big games such as the FIFA World Cup. Cricket is to India what football is to the United States or soccer in Europe and South America.

India is regularly competitive in the World Cup tournaments, which takes place every 4 years. Its Indian Premier League (IPL) is the most attended sports league in the world. So how do other sports compare in popularity in the world's second most populated nation?

Why Cricket So Popular

Cricket is a traditional sport that began in England. In 1600 England's East India Company was established in India to do trade with Asia. So the British brought their sport to India, which began staging Cricket matches among sailors in the 1730s. The British took control of the country from 1858 through 1947. Throughout this era Cricket simply became ingrained in Indian culture.

Many fans often think sports are an escape from politics, but that's not true with Cricket. At the time of India's independence from the UK there were national debates on whether or not this British sport should be celebrated. After all, the East India Company wasn't just a trading post, it actually used its power to steadily gain control of land in Asia.

Despite the controversy, Cricket was still supported by fans on a wide scale. Then in 1971 when India defeated England, Cricket surged in popularity, as revenge against its colonizers. Indians have taken pride in winning the Cricket World Cup trophies in 1983, 2007 and 2011. The 1983 victory was significant because it took place in London.

Since then Cricket has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry in India. The sport has produced legendary superstars such as Virat Kohli, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar.

Rise of National Cricket Leagues

In 2007 the IPL was launched, encompassing teams from 8 Indian cities, leading to fans supporting teams in their regions. The shortened fast-paced T20 format, in which games last about 3 hours, adds to the sport's excitement. The Indian Cricket League (ICL), however, folded after two seasons in 2009.

The IPL was the 6th ranked most popular sports league in the world in 2014, based on average attendance. It has since become the most attended cricket league on earth. The league attracted over 1.8 million attendees in 2018 for 60 games among the 8 teams. The sport is so popular it attracts a wide range of sponsors, and many times in commercials Cricketers are used to promote games.

Other Sports in India

Some critics argue that the popularity of Cricket has overshadowed all other sports in India, threatening their funding. While there are over 8,000 different sports in the world, only a short list has equated to enormous popularity in India. But other sports do draw crowds, such as Football (soccer), Kabaddi and Hockey.

The Indian Super League has grown to attracting over a million soccer fans annually while the I-League, another association football league, is approaching a million attendees. But India has not developed much of a track record in FIFA competitions over the years.

India has now won three World Cups under the International Kabbadi Federation, which consists of 12 nations. Kabbadi is a sport that originated in ancient India. It's a contact sport involving 7 players on a team, as scoring comes from tagging and tackling opponents. It's the official state game in 11 of the 29 Indian states.

Sports Betting

Wagering on sports is a growing trend in India, although laws are somewhat unclear. But according to many operators are offering their services legally. Certain games of chance such as lotteries and online casinos are allowed in certain states. For the most part, the government is allowing this multi-billion dollar business to blossom. The reason casino and betting has captivated teens and young adults is partly due to the convenience of playing on mobile devices from home. There are also a lot of free online games to explore that don't involve risking money.

Cricket, naturally, is exciting to the Indian gambling community. Many bettors place their wagers online for massively popular sporting events like the Cricket World Cup.

Indian Participation in Cricket

Cricket is widely played by Indian citizens, partly because it can be a very simple game with at least two players. It can be played on a field of any size and even on the street. Some people even play it indoors, as it's embraced by a wide age range of parents and kids. It's clear that Cricket's popularity is not about to be overthrown.