Since its introduction to India by British colonists in the early 18th century, cricket has enjoyed huge popularity in the country. The national team was accepted into the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1926, played its first Test match in 1932 and won its first World Cup trophy in 1983. That last achievement changed the course of history of cricket in India.
Indeed, the upsurge in popularity prompted by that famous win over the West Indies still lingers on today. India remains the most watched and followed sport in the country, with cricketers dominating the list of the nation’s favourite athletes, too. What’s more, the women’s game is also enjoying a boost in popularity of late and could soon rival the men’s game in interest.
More popular than ever
According to the Indian Cricket Fandom Report 2023, cricket is watched by over half (52%) the population. That was over double the next popular sports kabaddi (23%), badminton (21%) and tennis (21%). Taken from the survey sample size of 43,000 people, that means that more than 22,000 respondents to the survey alone watch cricket; extrapolated across the entirety of India, the sport has more than 700 million domestic fans today.
Despite the rise in streaming services and the consumption of content on mobiles, tablets or other portable devices, two out of three cricket fans still said they prepared to watch the game on TV. Even so, 67% of respondents also watch cricket via such modern mediums, which was almost three times the percentage of other sports.
At the same time, more and more people are enhancing their enjoyment of the big match by laying a wager on its outcome. Whether you like to place a T20 cricket bet or overcome the odds on a ODI series, there are plenty of markets available to pique your interest today. That is reflected in the growing number of sportsbooks and online casinos accepting such wagers, too.
Women’s game on the up
Meanwhile, there was also good news for the women’s game. 21% of female respondents said they had played the game at least once in the last 12 months (compared to 30% of men), while almost half (48%) said they actually preferred watching women’s cricket compared to its male counterpart. That’s a huge percentage and shows just how far the sport has come.
It shows no signs of slowing down, either. In 2020, 86,000 people attended the final of the T20 World Cup, which is the highest ever attendance for a female cricket match. This year has already seen South Africa host the 2023 edition, with Australia eventually beating the hosts in the final to win the tournament and extend their record haul of trophies.
And March sees the launch of the inaugural Women’s Premier League which has already raised some $700 million before a ball has even been bowled. That substantial revenue means it’s now the second-most lucrative domestic women’s competition behind basketball in America. The funds will be funnelled back into the sport to ensure its enduring progression and increasing popularity far into the future.
Football might be the most popular sport worldwide, but in India, there’s only one winner: cricket.