India has always enjoyed a great tradition of sports. Although modern Indian sports have been greatly influenced by the British presence in India in the 18th and 19th century, India is establishing its own identity in the sports industry in terms of both participating and as viewing audience. This is true especially in the case of Indian Cricket. Cricket is undoubtedly the most popular sport, but in such a large and populous country there are many other sports that are played, viewed and closely followed by a lot of people. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular sports in India.
Cricket is the most popular sport in India played, watched and loved by people from all walks of life. India has produced several legendary cricketers such as Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni, and Virat Kohli. The hype generated by the cricket always overshadows the other sports played in India. The sports has even successfully found its way into bollywood in the form of inspiring classics like Lagaan and Ms Dhoni: The Untold Story. Because of its sheer popularity, cricket can be termed as the unifying religion of our secular nation. There are several reasons for the popularity of cricket in India. Other than cricket matches being regularly promoted and telecasted by leading sports channels, India’s brilliant performance in cricket matches has a huge rule to play in its popularity. India has won all the ICC Tournaments that includes two ODI’s World Cups(1983 and 2011), T20 World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy 2013. It also attracts cricketers from all over the world due to a hefty amount of money invested in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
After Cricket, football is the second most popular sport in India. It is also the second most-watched game by Indian sports fans. Although, the Indian national football team may still have much success to gain at the international level, as it ranks 108 in FIFA rankings. The Indian Super League (ISL) has gathered a massive number of followers in India. It is the huge following of European club tournaments that form of the root of football’s massive popularity in India. Besides, India also hosted the under 17 FIFA World Cup recently in 2017. According to surveys the English Premier League is the most popular football league in India, while Manchester United is the most popular club.
Hockey is the national sport of India. India is one of the most successful countries when it comes to men’s hockey. India has won 8 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals, which is more than any other hockey team in the world. India also claimed the world cup tournament in 1975 in Malaysia. Recently at the Asian Games in 2018, the Indian Women’s team spectacularly bagged the Silver medal. Also, Hockey has its own league, known as The Hockey India League (HIL) that was launched to create a ground-based following among the general public for hockey. The sports was also embraced by moviegoers when it came to be portrayed in the famous bollywood movies, Chak de! India, Gold and Soorma.
Badminton is another sport of great interest amongst the people of India. It is said to be the second most played sport in India after Cricket. Its one of the most preferred sports by school students in the nation and garners a lot of attraction from adults as it is better suited for busy lifestyles and requires only two players. Various Indian badminton players have made a name for themselves and India on the international platform. Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand have won the All England Open in 1980 and 2001 respectively. Indian ‘shuttler’ Saina Nehwal created history after she won a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012. Her achievement was surpassed by PV Sindhu, who won a silver medal in the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Tennis has been a popular sport in India for a very long time. Although India has yet to achieve much success in the singles event, it is known for creating top-quality doubles players. Both Leander Peas and Mahesh Bhupathi have several Grand Slam titles to their name. Tennis players like Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna are also inspirations among the Indian youth. To increase the viewership of Tennis in India, Mahesh Bhupathi also launched the International Premier Tennis League in 2014.
Wrestling is one of the most-watched sports in India. It has brought several medals from various major tournaments. Indian wrestlers have made a great impression on the international platform by winning at least one single medal since the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing. Sushil Kumar is one of India’s most successful wrestlers who bagged two medals in the Olympics. Movies like Dangal and Sultan have also increased the popularity of wrestling in India. Recently at the Asian Games in 2018, the Indian team won 2 gold medals and a bronze medal.
7. Motor Sports
Motorsport has gained a lot of popularity among Indian sports fans in recent times. This is due to the craze behind Formula One, which is one of the biggest motorsports tournament in the world. Formula one provoked interest among Indian sports fans in 2005 when Driver Narain Karthikeyan became the first Indian to compete in the event when he got signed by the Jordan Formula One team. Karun Chandok was the second Indian driver to compete in Formula One when he was signed by the HRT Formula One team in 2011. Apart from Formula One, India also has its racing team in Moto GP in the form of Mahindra Racing. Gaurav Gill is another Indian racing celebrity famous for rally race driving. He was the first Indian to win an Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in the years 2013 and 2016.
Amongst the traditional Indian sports, Kabaddi returned to the center stage with the unexpected rise of the Pro-Kabaddi League (PKL) that is held across various cities in India. In 2014, PKL became the second most popular league of India after the Indian Premier League. India and Iran are the two top playing kabaddi nations in the world right now. India has won all the Kabaddi World cups until 2017.