BY RIPAL PATEL
The game of cricket spread to African and Asian countries with the rapid expansion of the British Empire.
There is no place other than the sub-continent, at the moment, where cricket is so successful in terms of the number of admirers as well as in commercial terms. India & Pakistan are the leading cricketing rivals in the Sub-Continent.
The first match in India was recorded in 1721 when a group of sailors gathered to play in Western India. For nearly three centuries, cricket is India’s most popular sport and celebrity cricketers are among the wealthiest members of Indian society!
Cricket is one of the few aspects of Indian life that unites the whole country.
India became the sixth member of the “elite club” alongside England, Australia, South Africa, the West Indies and New Zealand in June 1932. India’s inaugural match with England at Lords attracted a 24,000 strong crowd, including the King of England, who was also then the Emperor of India.
Many believe it encouraged the concept of nationhood for Indians and proved to be a turning point in India’s struggle for independence. India had to wait until 1952 to record its first-ever Test victory. India beat England by an innings in Madras. It was in the same year that Pakistan gained Test status.
Once again cricket proved its importance as a forum for reviving human bonds. India clashed with the visiting Pakistan team in 1952 initiating a new intense sporting rivalry between the newly-formed neighbours.
Unlike India, Pakistan managed to record their first-ever win within a mere two years in 1954. As India and Pakistan went to war in 1960, cricket matches were suspended. It was just the beginning of a series of suspensions to come.
Pakistan remains the only team to beat England in their first tour to cricket’s birthplace. While Pakistan’s initial pioneering era seemed to be diminished during the 1960s, India saw the emergence of new talent in the form of Bedi, Chandrasekar, Prasanna and Pataudi.
Sunil Gavaskar dominated the batting in world cricket during the 1970s. He still holds a world record, having scored the most centuries in Test cricket. Imran Khan, meanwhile, dominated bowling but was also a superb all-rounder.