Cricket is a Religion in India

Cricket is a Religion in India Photo: TT
Virat Kohli has added another chapter in the book of Indian cricket

There’s a popular saying in the world of cricket which goes by ‘Cricket is a Religion in India’. If you are an Indian who follows any bit of cricket, you would have a fair idea why; it is the kind of following it has in the country which topples any of the other sports or any of the other country’s cricket-following. For those who would like to understand more, read on.

Cricket Unites More Than Other Sports

Cricket is that religion which gets fans together like no other, and we are talking about a country like India which embraces multiple religions as a part of its secular constitution.

Some reckon the national sport of the country is hockey, however, cricket is one that can be termed as the number one sport by fan following and by some distance at that. With millions of ardent followers, cricket is the religion of India. Men in Blue are absolutely adored by the crazy cricket fans and their fame outshines the popularity of any other celebrity.

There aren’t too many who who hasn’t been touched by this sport’s charisma in India, whether it’s a toddler learning his first steps as a sportsperson or an man in the twilight of his life. People plan their activities, leaves and travel plans after checking out the schedule of the India National Cricket Team.

It Helps Forge Relationships

Cricket is also the fastest way of befriending an Indian. No matter which part of India it is, one can find a bunch of kids playing cricket with lot of enthusiasm.

It was very often said that cricket is dying in England, the country where it originated. In recent times, however, with England winning the 2019 World Cup, things might even change but can they match up to the following cricket has in India? Doubtful. Even in West Indies, cricket seems to have lost its sheen. The T20 craze aside, countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and even a powerful country like South Africa have limited cricket following.

No such problems for Indians, who continue to follow the game and put it on a different pedestal. In fact, after the birth of the immensely popular Indian Premier League, the cricket fever has entered into entirely new horizons of fame and glory.

Sponsors Love Cricket!

Because of its enormous popularity in India, cricket attracts a lot of sponsors too. In addition, the frequency of matches played by India is higher than most of the other cricket playing countries with each game being followed like a ritual.

Hardly would anyone witness any vacant seats in a stadium where a match is being played. Apart from India’s International fixtures, the domestic tournaments like Ranji Trophy, Irani Trophy and Duleep Trophy also gather a huge support. All these factors contribute in making BCCI the richest cricket board of the world. Most of the ICC revenues are generated from this cricket crazy nation.

The religion of cricket has no holy books but there are several Gods or legendary cricketers which the fans look up, including Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev from the years gone by to MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli in more recent times.

The Tendulkar Factor

“If cricket is the religion, Sachin is God”, has become a popular saying. Sachin Tendulkar, regarded as a living legend, is worshiped by almost every cricket fan.

Apart from these Gods, the religion of cricket also has its festivals in the form of victories. Every Indian win is cheered and celebrated like a festival. But there is a flip side too. Whenever India loses a match, the defeat is seen as a national tragedy generating a lot of criticism for players as well as selectors. Sometimes the criticism becomes very harsh prompting to several changes and resignations.

There have been a few unsavory incidents which have also been reported following shock losses, including the 1996 World Cup semifinal defeat to Sri Lanka when fans threw bottles on to the ground and forced the match referee to abandon the game.

More interestingly, India is undoubtedly one of the most diverse nations in the world. A billion people in the country, with more than 20 different languages and far more number of dialects. The life style and the culture varies significantly over the geography, but if there is one thing which unites the nation without a hitch, it’s cricket.

To put things in perspective for you, cricket is to India what soccer is to England (or football is to the United States). Even though cricket is a sport which we picked up from the Britishers during their colonial rule, it’s us Indians who gave a it a new name, a new meaning.

Be it in any part of the country, the odds of you running into a group of children (or adults) playing cricket on the streets are much higher than you speaking their language. And that isn’t even a concern since as long as you can hold a bat and pitch the ball, you are sure to be invited to play the game.

Pros and Cons of This Following

With cricket being a religion in India, every major win by the national team is celebrated with great pomp and show. The streets are deserted on the occasion of every major final match and when we win, they light up like the festival of Diwali. On the other hand, every major defeat is subjected to great scrutiny, often resulting in criticism for the players and the selecting committee.

Just like any other religion, the game of cricket in India has several Gods. The most prominent one is the retired international batsman, who currently holds a plethora of records with him - Tendulkar. Irregardless of their fondness for the sport, every Indian knows who Tendulkar is and what he stands for.

Moreover, the Indian Premier League, more popularly known as the IPL, has been a big hit among the fans. The tournament is entering its 13th season now and it appears to be getting bigger and bigger every year.

Abhay burande
Sports Pundit member

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