India, a diverse country with a population of more than 1.3 billion, has had an old relationship with sports. It is an important part of their culture, yet surprisingly, we do not see much Indian representation at an international level in the most popular sports at a global level, with a few exceptions, of course.
So, one may wonder what sports the Indians enjoy in particular. We have made your job easier by listing down five of the most popular sports in India. Let’s have a look!
Cricket In India
If we were to name the most popular sport in India, cricket would be the uncontested winner by quite a margin. The Indians are passionate about the sport, which is evident in the zeal and fervour witnessed in the stadium during a cricket match.
The British introduced cricket in India during their rule over the sub-continent, and since then, the sport has been so widely accepted that it is now deeply embedded in the social fabric.
The country’s national cricket team comprises some of the best players in the world and has won many tournaments over the years, including the Cricket World Cup in 198 and 2011, the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007, and the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013. India’s matches with its arch-rival are some of the most watched matches on TV.
India also founded its own professional Twenty20 cricket tournament in 2008, the Indian Premier League (IPL). It is the most followed league in the world with participation from some of the best international players and has a brand value of around $6 billion.
Football In India
Although India does not have much representation internationally, when it comes to football, it is one of the most watched and played games at the domestic level.
Like cricket, football also came to India during the British rule. The Indian national football team currently ranks 96th in the FIFA rankings and, to date, has not taken part in the World Cup. Despite that, football remains a very popular spectator sport and is played on a wide scale as well. The Indian Super League, founded in 2013, and the I-League are the country’s highest-level football events.
Field Hockey In India
Despite the unmatched popularity of cricket in India, field hockey remains a top sport in the country. It has been prevalent in the country for a long time and many deem it the national sport of India.
Indians have also dominated hockey fields at the international level, particularly in the Olympics, as they have won 8 gold medals, one silver, and 2 bronze medals, more than any other country in the world. The national team also won the 1975 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The Indian Hockey League was founded in 2013. It comprises six teams that play ten games each over a two-month period, which is followed by play-off matches.
Badminton In India
After cricket, badminton is perhaps the second most played sport in India. It has been played in the country for a long time, and now, a new generation of Indian badminton players have taken over the sport and are representing the country internationally with considerable success.
The Indian Badminton players have proven their mettle at many international events. Saina Nehwal, who was ranked the second best player in the world in 2010, won a bronze medal at the Olympics held in London in 2012. After her success, PV Sindhu earned silver in the 2016 Olympics held in Rio.
PV Sindhu also won silver in 2017 and 2018 and gold in 2019 in women’s singles at the world championships. Other prominent players include Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth, who won bronze and silver in men’s singles in 2021.
Tennis In India
The names of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna have become household names in India today. The two tennis stars have inspired the Indian youth in the truest sense through their incredible performances on the international level and made tennis one of the most popular sports in the country.
The contributions of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes also cannot be forgotten, as they have also played a major role in shaping the Indian tennis industry. India may not be very prominent in the singles events, but its performance in the doubles and mixed double category matches is quite impressive.
Other Sports In India
Another significant sport we cannot ignore when compiling a list of the most popular sports in India is kabaddi. It is a native sport that has been played in the country for centuries. The Pro Kabaddi League of India, founded in 2014, is also one of the most followed leagues in India. With the sport gaining international recognition and the incorporation of formal tournament patterns, kabaddi is rapidly becoming one of the most popular sports in India.