The Origin and History of Cricket: A Story

Sports are a great teacher. I think of everything they've taught me: camaraderie, humility, how to resolve differences. 

-Kobe Bryant

That is what the greatest basketball player in history had to say about how important sports are to our daily lives. Every single person has a strong passion for them, which have become a huge part of daily life for people all around the world. We all do our best to support our favourite teams, whether it's cheering for our tennis GOAT to win another grand slam or our cherished football club to win another silverware. Similarly, each cricket match is nothing short of stunning  in terms of suspense, intensity and passion. It is more than just a sport; a cultural phenomenon and a way of life of more than 2.5 billion people. 

An aerial shot of Shaun Pollock bowling to Mike Hussey in a test match between South Africa and Australia

Credit: Wikipedia

So in this chapter by ZAP, let's know about the Origin and History of cricket and what makes it so special. 

The Story of Cricket - Why is it so popular?

Cricket has won the hearts of people all over the world, from England, where it first appeared in the 16th century, to down under in Australia-New Zealand region. In the subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh), cricket is the life of people, with everyone treating it as a separate religion. It is so popular that we give players titles, with Sachin Tendulkar as the God Of Cricket! In other parts, like the West Indies, it is a matter of pride for them, due to the history they have with winning the 1975 and 1979 ODI Cricket World Cup!

The Origin of Cricket:

Cricket is popular because it involves a certain set of abilities, including strategic thinking, self-control, and precision in addition to physical fitness and agility. Even though a match might go on for days, every run and wicket scored during that period is crucial. Players standing and giving every inch of effort to win the match under the hot and scorching sun is what makes this game so exciting to watch.

An illustration of people playing village cricket

Credit: ICC

The game is believed to have originated in Saxon or Norman times in the Weald, a densely forested area in England. It has been suggested that it evolved from bowls, with the main addition being someone with a stick or plank of wood trying to stop the ball from reaching its target. The target could have been a tree stump or the gate of a sheep enclosure. The term "wiket" is a small door or grille in Anglo-Norman French, while the term "wicket" is also used for the hoops in croquet.

The sport originated when children in the 16th century started playing with a wooden stick to hit a ball as a competition of who could hit the ball the furthest. It gained popularity among the English gentry and spread beyond Britain, with the first recorded mention of the game being played outside of Britain in 1676. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) at The Lord’s Cricket Ground was formed in 1787 and is the current custodian of all the laws of the sport. Throughout the 18th century, it evolved from village teams to county teams playing organized matches. The USA and Canada competed in the first-ever international cricket match in 1844 at the St. George's Cricket Club in New York.

How Cricket Spread around the world:

The British Empire's expanding colonialist influence in the 18th and 19th centuries helped the game gain popularity in all the Commonwealth regions. 

Between Tasmania and Victoria, the first first-class Test was played in 1850, with the former winning by three wickets. Professional players who traveled to foreign countries for tours such as the English tour of Canada and the United States in 1859 and the Australian tour of England in 1877, which gave rise to the oldest rivalry-The Ashes helped them gain even greater popularity.

An image of a historical ashes test

Credit: Ashes History

The first "Ashes" matchup, between teams representing England and Australia, took place in 1882. Reportedly, the "ashes" are the burned ashes of a bail that are maintained in an urn and given to the victorious team.

The MCC's president from 1892 to 1903, Lord Hawke, was a key figure in the globalization of our sport.  By taking his amateur team on tours of several countries, including South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, and the West Indies, he supported international tours and the preservation of the game's traditions. His work helped cricket become more well-known and popular across the world.

The rise of the Modern Era - Cricket World Cup History: 

With more than 200 years of history, Cricket has been one of the most historically important sports of all times. But, as we all know, Change is a constant, which was the same for Cricket, it had to evolve over time to get more organized and attract more and more viewers. 

For this, the ICC, (earlier Imperial Cricket Council, now International Cricket Council) was formed in 1909, to govern all the matters concerning the game. 

The First ODI world cup was established by the ICC in 1975, with eight teams participating in the tournament, including Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and the West Indies. South Africa was banned due to apartheid. The tournament was won by the West Indies, who defeated Australia by 17 runs in the final at Lord's.

West Indies captain Clive Lloyd lifts the cricket world cup trophy

Credit: ICC

In the 1983 World Cup, the underdog Indian team defeated the mighty West Indies to be hailed as champions, and that day, the burst of popularity of the game began in India!

This tournament marked the birth of the sport as a global modern game!

Since then, the sport has undergone so many more evolutions to make it the game that we love so much today. 

The Rise of Platforms:

For fans, watching cricket has been a fascinating trip through the highs and lows of the game. A feeling of intrigue, drama, and sadness was created as fans gathered around their transistors to listen to radio broadcasts and follow live commentary. That was the period of our grandfathers, who used to sit closely by his radio and listen to the commentary with unreal passion!

A Black and white broadcast of a cricket match

Credit: ESPN Cricinfo

As technology grew in the 80s and 90s, broadcasting also flourished, giving fans the opportunity to watch matches live for the very first time. Though it was in black and white, it was an experience for people in those times that they had never had. The 1992 World Cup was the first time a tournament had crossed over a billion viewers. 

The ability to watch sports events on television with lifelike graphics that transport viewers to the center of the field and let them hear the sound of the bat striking the ball has been made feasible by technological innovation.Technology has also helped in the growth of the popularity of players. Nobody could see how good a player was until live recording came into play.

The broadcast room inside a stadium telecasting a cricket match

Credit: ICC

Sir Don Bradman may be the best and the greatest player ever, at least the stats suggest this, but had everyone seen him play live, his stature would have been even bigger in the history of the sport.

And now, Thanks to the expansion of the internet and streaming services, fans can now watch live matches on their computers and mobile devices.

The Rise of T20s:

MS Dhoni Celebrates after beating Pakistan in the 2007 T20 World Cup final

Credit: Hindustan Times

Only 10% of the history of the sport belongs to its most lucrative era. The first T20 game was played in 2003, completely changing how cricket will be played in the future. The shortest and fastest format is T20, which at first drew criticism from purists. However, it provides viewers with unmatched entertainment, and tournaments like the IPL, BBL, and PSL have helped to popularize T20 and win over millions of followers across the world. Major League Cricket, a new competition, will soon be organized in the US. A new Cricket Regulatory Body is being established in the US to regulate and promote the game. With the GT20 Canada including adored legends like Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, and Yuvraj Singh, Canada is also developing a love for the game.

The Preacher for Equality - Women’s Cricket:

The captains of the Women's Premier League around the WPL Trophy at the opening ceremony

Credit: 100MB

Women have played an important role in society, and it is only fair for them to have a separate competition of their own. In 1971, the first ever Women’s World Cup was organized to boost women's cricket. The inaugural tournament was won by the Australian women’s team. Now, the BCCI too has launched the WPL- the Women’s Premier League, which is a t20 league similar to that of the IPL but for females. The WPL has been a huge step in increasing the female participation in the game and inspiring young female athletes to work hard to win big on the grandest stage!

The Future of Cricket:

The game has adapted remarkably well to the dynamics of sporting history, producing ODIs and T20s to maintain a rising fan base and creating franchises that draw attention from around the world. The game is actively played by all members of society, and it brings people from all walks of life together to play and watch something they all like. The Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games are expected to include cricket which will lay the groundwork for the sport's future. Though, there are concerns that ODIs may become less and less popular over the course of the next ten years.

Now that you've read about the Origin and History of Cricket, here are some other articles you should read:

Decision Review System | Powerplay in Cricket | History of Cricket in Australia

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