Scores of games are played in India, often ranging from popular ones like cricket and football to indigenous games like Gilli-danda. In this aspect, let us find out: which are the most watched sports leagues in India.
Answering what sports are popular in India is difficult since it is a tough task to gauge the popularity of a single sport in a vast country like India.
However, let’s dive in and see what sports are played in India and try to find out what sports are popular in India!
Cricket has achieved the level of a national craze in India: we simply can’t live without it, one could even consider it a national sport.
Introduced by the British colonial masters, India has owned the game of cricket and cricket matches as a part of her culture and lifestyle.
Some of the best cricketers to grace the pitch, including Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Kapil Dev, Saurav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Sunil Gavaskar, MS Dhoni, and countless more are from India.
Indian Premier League is the most watched sports league in the world, and BCCI is the governing body for cricket in India. All forms of cricket, including the Twenty20 World Cup, the 2011 Cricket World Cup, the ICC Champions Trophy, and the ICC Test Championship, have been won by the Indian cricket team.
India shares a heated cricketing rivalry with neighbors Pakistan, and the India-Pakistan matches regularly draw record numbers of viewers in the country.
The Indian Super League, meanwhile, is one of the most-watched leagues in the world, and, in India, raked in more viewers than foreign leagues and the World Cup combined. India recently hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which also drew high viewership.
The Indian football leagues, namely the ISL and the I-League, have failed to rope in big-name stars due to lack of proper funds.
Despite this, many Indian states like West Bengal, Kerala, Goa, and the North-Eastern states enjoy a high level of participation in football.
3. Field Hockey
The 1950-1970 period was a golden age for the Hockey Team in India, which dominated the world hockey arena.
Captained by the legendary Major Dhyan Chand, the team won seven Olympic gold medals out of a possible eight in the Olympic games! They also won the 1975 Hockey World Cup.
Despite the falling popularity, field hockey still enjoys a decent viewership.
Kabaddi has quietly risen in popularity over the last decade, in no small part due to the Pro Kabaddi League, which brought huge viewership and commercial gains to the game.
Ever since the exploits of Prakash Padukone (who ranked World No. 1 in 1980) and Pullela Gopichand, badminton’s popularity has been ever-increasing and the badminton association.
Jwala Gutta carried on their legacy since the turn of the century, raking up a total of 316 wins, a record by an Indian tennis player.
The final match between Sindhu and Spain’s Carolina Marin drew huge eyeballs. Furthermore, the Premier Badminton League, which was started in 2013, has also helped increase the popularity of badminton in India.
Despite India never enjoying absolute domination in the international arena, several Indian tennis players have enjoyed strong performances, especially in the doubles format.
Some of the best doubles tennis players from India are Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza, and Rohan Bopanna. People here also enjoy table tennis although the number might be low.
While chess never attained the level of popularity that it enjoyed in Russia and the USA, it has gained in popularity recently.
The lion’s share of this belongs to Viswanathan Anand, a five-time world chess champion and former World No. 1 ranked player. In 2006, Anand became the fourth player to surpass the Elo rating of 2800.
Gaurav Gill is the most popular motorsports driver in India. Jeev Milkha Singh and Anirban Lahiri are some of the elite Indian golfers.
When considering what sports are popular in India, it is vital to consider these indigenous games, too, as they form a huge part of Indian sporting traditions.
Interesting Facts About Indian Sports
Major Dhyan Chand, the legendary Indian field hockey player, mesmerized Adolf Hitler by his goal-scoring displays in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, so much so that the German dictator offered him German citizenship and a higher post in the Reich Army. Major Chand, though, politely declined the offer. [source]
MC Mary Kom, the most celebrated Indian boxer, had to keep her love for boxing hidden from her family because her father, an ex-boxer, disapproved of boxing. He was concerned that a career in boxing would disfigure Kom’s face and hurt her chances of finding a marriage partner.
However, her father finally found out the secret when a photograph of Kom was published in a local newspaper celebrating her win in the state boxing championship. [sources]
The Indian Football Team qualified for the 1950 FIFA World Cup because all their opponents withdrew from the qualifiers. However, the AIFF withdrew from the tournament due to various reasons, ranging from funding of travel, lack of practice time, and because footballers cannot play barefoot in the World Cup. [source]
Sunil Gavaskar is famous for his cricketing exploits, but he is also a brave humanitarian. During the 1993 Mumbai riots, Gavaskar saw a mob corner a family. He ran down the streets and talked the mob down and saved the family. [source]
Now that you are aware of what sports are popular in India and what are some of the most interesting facts about sports in India click on the links given below to continue quenching your thirst for knowledge: