India is a very diverse place full of different people and cultures. Sports is one of the activities that binds together this multi-cultured country, with cricket leading the way as the nation’s favorite sport. Aside from cricket, there are many other sports that are both viewed and played by the population.
Yet India is very different in its sporting preferences to, say, the USA. In the States, American football, basketball and major league baseball are the most popular. Due to betting restrictions being recently lifted, fans in the USA often place bets on football games and prop bets on baseball events.
In the UK, the most popular sports are football, rugby, cricket and hockey, along with tennis, athletics and more. This is more similar to what you find over in India, though India has its own favorites. Let’s take a look at the top five sports in India.
Cricket is without a doubt the most popular sport in the country. It is regularly shown on TV and pulls in huge viewership. India is known throughout the world for its success in cricket, from their first World Cup win in 1983, to more recent victories in the World Cup 2007 and ICC Champion’s Trophy.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India is one of the richest sports bodies in the world, and definitely the number one for in the world for profit in cricket. This means that programs and facilities are more available than in other sports, and each generation brings more homegrown talent, from legendary cricketers like Kapil Dev to current captain Virat Kohli.
From now on, it gets difficult to rank India’s sports in terms of popularity. Cricket is the undisputed favorite. According to Vimal Kumar, who was recently given the Dronacharya Award for his contributions as a coach, badminton is now the second most popular sport after cricket.
The badminton revolution is now on. Saina Nehwal was ranked the 2nd best player in the world in 2010, then picked up bronze at the London Olympics in 2012. P.V Sindhu took silver in the 2016 Olympics and recently won a gold medal in the World Championships in Basel. This success is attracting new young players to join.
Hockey is widely regarded as the country’s national sport. It has recently been established that this is a myth. India does not officially recognise a national sport. Still, hockey has been a part of the culture since the ‘golden days’. India dominated international hockey, winning six Olympic gold medals between 1928 and 1956 alone, and eight in total.
There has since been a decline in the nation’s success and the sport’s popularity, starting with rule changes in the Olympics and culminating with a lot of in-fighting within the hockey federation. India has had some success since then, such as women’s silver and men’s bronze in the 2018 Asian games, but the sport is still plagued by systemic issues. It may boom again in the future, as people are encouraged to take an interest in the sport.
Football is something of an enigma in the world of Indian sports. It is the second most popular in terms of games watched by fans, but it is very much a spectator sport. Few people in the country actually play it, and the national team is placed well over 100th in the world in the FIFA rankings, having never qualified for the world cup.
The popularity of football largely comes from people watching European teams compete. Many of the biggest teams in European football have fan clubs in India. This represents an untapped world of potential, if the investment were there to create more domestic interest and nurture local talent. The Indian Soccer League (ISL) has been up and running since 2014, but more needs to be done if football is to become a sport that is popular to play.
Kabaddi is the most popular indigenous sport in India, and is especially well loved in rural areas. It was one of India’s outdoor games that was quickly losing popularity. Thankfully, Kabaddi has returned to centre stage in recent years, especially with the rise of the Pro Kabaddi League, which recently became the second most popular league in India.
India have won all of the Kabaddi World Cups held so far, while Iran have been runners up three times.
Sport is loved by many across India. Cricket is the favorite, but the rest are also popular in their own ways. There are also many sports that didn’t quite make the list, such as chess, wrestling, motor sports and basketball.