Being a nation so vast that it’s earned the moniker of ‘the subcontinent,’India has become a global icon in many regards. From its India-specific movie industry to the cuisine that has taken over the world, those who think of Indian culture conjure up many images. Among the most prominent perceptions of the country from outside of India’s borders is that it’s also very much a sporting nation, enjoying a great many different competitions.
India has historically been known as a big hockey nation, but the one that stands as the most associated with the country is, undoubtedly, cricket. However, it comes to the surprise of many that cricket isn’t classed as India’s national sport. So, what is the national sport, and why does cricket stake a claim to the title?
What is the national sport of India?
Many outside of India would assume that cricket is the national sport, while the people of India are told from a young age that hockey is India’s national sport. According to The Culture Trip’s Look at India’s National Sport, it turns out that neither hockey nor cricket are the official national sports of India. As confirmed by the Sports Ministry of India, not one sport is recognised as the ‘national game.’
Anyone can see how historically strong and dedicated Indian sports programmes have been to hockey, lending it as a national sport by default. In recent times, however, with the cricket teams and leagues surging, and the crowds that they attract, it’s tough to argue that, on the face of it, cricket could be the national sport. Even with India Men’s Test Team Struggling Lately, the amount of support behind the long-form team is near-unrivalled in the sporting world.
The case for cricket becoming the official national sport of India
A national sport can be recognised in several different ways. Primarily, the game itself has to be intertwined with the culture of the country in such a way that it is considered intrinsic to being a part of the culture. Some nations opt to select the national sport, holding it in such high prestige by law. For the most part, though, the games that earn the label of ‘national sport’within a country are those that are historically significant, and thus have held a strong level of participation through the years.
While football is on the rise and hockey is certainly known as being one of India’s favourites, it’s tough to look past India when you see the ocean of blue-shirted fans at any national cricket match. Cricket has been invested in heavily across the country, which has been greatly helped by its popularity. Not only is the infrastructure investment warranted to house the millions of fans, but also to further develop each new generation of first-class talents breaking through the system.
It can be argued that cricket has the best infrastructure and backing of any sport in India, even to the extent that it stands as a global leader in that regard. India has helped to popularise the sport, and the Board of Control for Cricket in India sets a shining example to be followed by other governing bodies. It’s thanks to the systems and support put in place that cricket has been able to win over the nation and produce so many successful teams. The India Men’s National Cricket Team boasts 157 test wins, two ODI World Cups, and a Twenty20 World Cup win. The Women in Blue have enjoyed plenty of success as well, winning five tests and an ODI World Cup.
Cricket growing further as India’s sport with increased technology
Around the world, as technology continues to become stronger and the internet connects people to new forms of entertainment and different sports, some nations have seen their sports decline in popularity. For cricket in India, however, increased access to the internet and mobile technology has only enhanced cricket’s standing. Sports viewership has been able to shoot up over the last few years in the subcontinent, with 93 per cent of all sports viewers in 2018 tuning in to cricket content, per the Business Standard Sports Viewership Analysis Article. This continued into 2020, with the opening match of the UAE-set 2020 IPL getting a record 200 million viewers.
Alongside increased access to viewing live games, India has also embraced other tech-driven forms of cricket engagement to establish it as the nation’s favourite sport further. Now, via smartphones or computers, the nation’s residents have access to the Best Cricket Betting Sites in India, being able to back outright winners of competitions, bet in-play, and crate accumulators. The sheer popularity of these India-facing betting sites shows the level of intrigue in the sport, primarily as demand has led to the sites offering all competition markets, from test matches to ODIs, the IPL to the Ranji Trophy, and Tamil Nadu Premier League.
Away from the pitches and engagement with real-life competitions, Indian cricket fans are commanding their own simulations of the game through popular mobile games. While football and pub games dominate the charts, the Similar Web’s Top-Grossing Sports Games in India rankings shows that cricket titles are also doing well. Stick Cricket Live and Hitwicket Superstars both rank among the top-grossing games, even though it’s very difficult to incorporate cricket into a video game, let alone a mobile, as has been seen throughout the history of console gaming.
Cricket is huge across India, from the domestic level to the international stage. Given its sustained popularity, the wealth of talent that comes through the nation, and the investment put into the sport nationwide, it stands to reason that, should India name a national sport, it should be cricket.