Cricket grew out of the many stick-and ball games played in England 500 years ago. The word ‘bat’ is an old English word that simply means stick or club. By the seventeenth century, cricket had evolved enough to be recognisable as a distinct game. Till the middle of the eighteenth century, bats were roughly the same shape as hockey sticks, curving outwards at the bottom.
There was a simple reason for this: the ball was bowled underarm, along the ground and the curve at the end of the bat gave the batsman the best chance of making contact.
One of the peculiarities of cricket is that a Test match can go on for five days and still end C in a draw.
No other modern team sport takes even half as much time to complete. A football match is generally over in an hour-and-a-half. Even baseball completes nine innings in less than half the time that it takes to play a limited-overs match, the shortened version of modern cricket! Another curious characteristic of cricket is that the length of the pitch is specified—22 yards— but the size or shape of the ground is not. Most other team sports such as hockey and football lay down the dimensions of the playing area.
Cricket does not. Grounds can be oval like the Adelaide Oval or nearly circular, like Chepauk in Chennai. A six at the Melbourne Cricket Ground needs to clear much more ground than it does at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi.
The technology of satellite television and the world-wide reach of multi-national television companies created a global market for cricket. Matches in Sydney could now be watched live in Surat. Since India had the largest viewership for the game amongst the cricket-playing nations and the largest market in the cricketing world, the game’s center of gravity shifted to South Asia. This shift was symbolized by the shifting of the ICC headquarters from London to tax-free Dubai.
One hundred and fifty years ago the first Indian cricketers, the Parsis, had to struggle to find an open space to play in. Today, the global marketplace has made Indian players the best-paid, most famous cricketers in the game, men for whom the world is a stage.
This transformation was made up of many smaller changes: the replacement of the gentlemanly amateur by the paid professional, the triumph of the one-day game as it overshadowed Test cricket in terms of popularity, and the remarkable changes in global commerce and technology.
The origins of Indian cricket
The origins of Indian cricket are to be found in Bombay and the first Indian community to start playing the game was the small community of Zoroastrians, the Parsis. Brought into close contact with the British because of their interest in trade and the first Indian community to westernise, the Parsis founded the first Indian cricket club, the Oriental Cricket Club, in Bombay in 1848.
Parsi clubs were funded and sponsored by Parsi businessmen like the Tatas and the Wadias. The white cricket elite in India offered no help to the enthusiastic Parsis. In fact, there was a quarrel between the Bombay Gymkhana, a whites-only club, and Parsi cricketers over the use of a public park.
The Parsis complained that the park was left unfit for cricket because the polo ponies of the Bombay Gymkhana dug up the surface. When it became clear that the colonial authorities were prejudiced in favour of their white compatriots, the Parsis built their own gymkhana to play cricket in.
The rivalry between the Parsis and the Bombay Gymkhana had a happy ending for these pioneers of Indian cricket. A Parsi team beat the Bombay Gymkhana at cricket in 1889