It is a well-known fact that cricket is hugely popular in India. A perhaps lesser-known fact is that several other sports such as basketball and tennis have attempted to increase their popularity in India, and with varying success. However, alternative sports have largely struggled to capture the nation’s imagination in the same way.
Football, on the other hand, has been more successful than the rest at appealing to Indian audiences. Increasing its audience share over the last decade, it has become particularly prominent amongst the younger generation of sports fans. But, regardless of Football’s undeniable success, we can identify three distinct reasons why cricket will always reign supreme in this part of the world.
India’s rivalry with neighbours, Pakistan is one of the most intense sporting conflicts in the world, and meetings between the pair rarely fail to live up to the hype. The teams met at the 2019 Cricket World Cup, with India prevailing by 89 runs. Having over 800,000 applications for tickets and a unique domestic TV audience of 233 million, this was undoubtedly the highlight of the year for the majority of Indian sports fans.
Over the years, India have also developed a number of rivalries with regular opponents such as Australia and England.
The Indian Premier League, which was founded in 2007, also plays host to a number of fierce rivalries with the two most successful teams in the competition. The Chennai Super Kings and the Mumbai Indians regularly provide unmissable entertainment. The IPL is one of the most anticipated events on the sporting calendar and has gained a worldwide audience over the last decade.
Unsurprisingly, betting on the competition has increased along with its viewership, and now that Indian cricket fans can wager from their smartphones, online sportsbooks have thrived. Some sites can offer up to 50 different markets per match and, because of the competition for custom, plus the increase in fans placing wagers, there is a saturation of betting sites to choose from.
In reaction, comparison sites such as asiabet.org have come to the fore, providing tipsters’ advice to help bettors pick out pre-match predictions. In order to forecast match outcomes, they utilise data from previous matches, as well as a factor in the latest injuries and suspensions. To see all upcoming IPL tips and for detailed statistical analysis click here.
There is the same service for fans who would like to wager on football, but the interest in doing so is vastly different from those who would like to bet on cricket. Although the meeting of familiar foes such as Barcelona and Real Madrid does attract interest in India, iconic football contests such as El Clasico tend to generate little fanfare in comparison to cricket.
To win a Test match without Virat, Rohit, Ishant & Shami is a terrific achievement.
Loved the resilience and character shown by the team to put behind the loss in the 1st Test and level the series.
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) December 29, 2020
Cricket is a major form of entertainment in India and, naturally, the majority of viewers want to see big-name personalities and household names take to the field. Successful Indian cricketers tend to be put on a pedestal, and the likes of Sachin Tendulkar are admired throughout the country. The highest run-scorer of all time is often referred to as the God of Cricket, and there was tangible excitement throughout the cricketing community each and every time he stepped onto the field.
Icons such as Rahul Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar, Anil Kumble, and Virender Sehwag also created unrivalled legacies during their playing careers and have set a precedent for a multitude of young hopefuls.
Footballers such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have enjoyed immeasurable success throughout their glittering careers. However, they cannot compete with the wave of excitement and anticipation which was created by the sight of Tendulkar approaching the crease.
National Team Success
Although recent success has largely eluded India, there have been a number of notable victories that have captured the imagination of the sporting fraternity. The 2007 T20 World Cup final victory over rivals Pakistan and the 2011 World Cup success on home soil are just two of the more memorable moments from across the last couple of decades.
Recent ODI and T20 successes against South Africa remain fresh in the mind of cricket aficionados in India, despite having been beaten in the semi-finals by New Zealand only last year. This suggests that the insatiable appetite for the international game shows no signs of abating.
Despite the moderate success of the recently-formed Super League, the Indian national football team has shown very few signs of improvement in recent years. The team have picked up just two competitive victories since mid-2018, with both of those coming against Thailand. This has hardly whetted the appetite for future success on the international stage for football and has done very little to help attract the next generation of fans in India.
Although interest in football has slowly increased over the last decade, it is unlikely to ever surpass cricket as the nation’s sport of choice. Coverage of top-flight competitions such as the Premier League and La Liga has allowed Indian football to watch the likes of Liverpool, Barcelona, and Manchester City on a weekly basis. However, this appears unlikely to make much of a dent in cricket’s sizeable fan-base anytime soon.