In the approximate centre of the field is a rectangular pitch (see image, below) on which a wooden target called a wicket is sited at each end; the wickets are placed 22 yards (20 m) apart. The pitch is a flat surface 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide, with very short grass that tends to be worn away as the game progresses (cricket can also be played on artificial surfaces, notably matting). Each wicket is made of three wooden stumps topped by two bails.
However, there are downsides to having such a cricket-loving population. Many Indians hold cricket very close to their hearts and losses are not received well by the Indian population. In some cases, particularly after losses to Pakistan or after a long string of weak performances, there have been reports of player effigies being burnt in the streets and vandalism of player homes. In many cases, players have come under intense attention from the media for negative reasons, this has been considered as one of the reasons for Sourav Ganguly being left out of the Indian team. At times, when a match is surrounded by controversy, it has resulted in a debacle. For example, when India slid to defeat against Australia at Brabourne Stadium in 1969, fans began throwing stones and bottles onto the field as well as setting fire to the stands, before laying siege to the Australian dressing rooms. During the same tour, a stampede occurred at Eden Gardens when tickets were oversold and India fell to another loss; the Australian team bus was later stoned with bricks . A similar event occurred during the 1996 Cricket World Cup, where India were losing the semi-final to Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens. In this case, the fan behaviour was directed at the Indian team in disappointment at their lacklustre performance. An armed guard had to be placed at the home of captain Mohammad Azharuddin to ensure his safety. Indian fans have also been passionate in their following of Sachin Tendulkar, who has been commonly thought of as one of the best batsmen in the world. Glorified for the bulk of his career, a riot occurred in early 1999 in a Test against Pakistan at Eden Gardens after a collision with Pakistani paceman Shoaib Akhtar saw him run out, forcing police to eject spectators and the game to be played in an empty stadium. Although in 2006, a string of low scores resulted in Tendulkar being booed by the Mumbai crowd when he got out against England
Cricket entered a new era in 1963 when English counties introduced the limited overs variant. As it was sure to produce a result, limited overs cricket was lucrative and the number of matches increased. The first Limited Overs International was played in 1971 and the governing International Cricket Council (ICC), seeing its potential, staged the first limited overs Cricket World Cup in 1975. In the 21st century, a new limited overs form, Twenty20, made an immediate impact. On 22 June 2017, Afghanistan and Ireland became the 11th and 12th ICC full members, enabling them to play Test cricket.
India failed to reach the final of the Asia Cup yet again in 2014. In the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 hosted in Bangladesh, India narrowly missed out on another ICC trophy by losing to Sri Lanka in the final. This tournament saw the rise of Virat Kohli as one of the best limited overs batsmen in world cricket, as he was adjudged the man of the series. India soon comprehensively beat Sri Lanka and West Indies in ODI series to cement their position at the top of the ODI rankings. India toured Australia towards the end of 2014 for a 4-match Test series, which is remembered for MS Dhoni's sudden retirement from Test cricket after the end of the second Test. Virat Kohli was appointed as the captain of Team India in Test matches but he was unable to turn the series around and India lost 2–0. Kohli's first series win as captain came away from home in a 3-match Test series vs Sri Lanka, which signalled the beginning of an unbeaten Test series run for India.
The ball is a hard leather-seamed spheroid, with a circumference of 22.9 centimetres (9.0 in). The ball has a "seam": six rows of stitches attaching the leather shell of the ball to the string and cork interior. The seam on a new ball is prominent and helps the bowler propel it in a less predictable manner. During matches, the quality of the ball deteriorates to a point where it is no longer usable; during the course of this deterioration, its behaviour in flight will change and can influence the outcome of the match. Players will, therefore, attempt to modify the ball's behaviour by modifying its physical properties. Polishing the ball and wetting it with sweat or saliva is legal, even when the polishing is deliberately done on one side only to increase the ball's swing through the air, but the acts of rubbing other substances into the ball, scratching the surface or picking at the seam are illegal ball tampering.
The wicket-keeper and the batsmen wear protective gear because of the hardness of the ball, which can be delivered at speeds of more than 145 kilometres per hour (90 mph) and presents a major health and safety concern. Protective clothing includes pads (designed to protect the knees and shins), batting gloves or wicket-keeper's gloves for the hands, a safety helmet for the head and a box for male players inside the trousers (to protect the crotch area). Some batsmen wear additional padding inside their shirts and trousers such as thigh pads, arm pads, rib protectors and shoulder pads. The only fielders allowed to wear protective gear are those in positions very close to the batsman (i.e., if they are alongside or in front of him), but they cannot wear gloves or external leg guards.
At the end of the 2004 season, India suffered from lack of form and fitness from its older players. A defeat in a following home Test series against Australia was followed by an ODI home series defeat against Pakistan followed by a Test series levelled 1–1. Greg Chappell took over from John Wright as the coach of the Indian cricket team following the series, and his methods proved to be controversial during the beginning of his tenure. The tension resulted in a fallout between Chappell and Ganguly, resulting in Rahul Dravid being made captain. This triggered a revival in the team's fortunes, following the emergence of players like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, and the coming of age of players like Irfan Pathan and Yuvraj Singh. A thumping home series victory over Sri Lanka in 2005 and a drawn series with South Africa put India at second place in the ICC ODI rankings. Dravid, Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were selected to play for the ICC World XI in the 2005 "SuperTest" against Australia. A convincing ODI series win in Pakistan in early 2006, following a loss in the Test series, gave India the world record of 17 successive ODI victories while batting second. Towards the middle of 2006, however, a 4–1 series loss in the West Indies gave rise to a slump in India's ODI form, while they achieved a 1–0 victory in the Test series that followed, giving them their first Test series victory in the Caribbean since 1971. India's ODI form slumped further with a disappointing performance in the 2006 Champions Trophy and a drubbing in the ODI series in South Africa. This was followed yet again by an initial good performance in the Tests, giving India its first Test match win in South Africa, although they went on to lose the series 2–1. This Test series was marked by Ganguly's comeback to the Indian team.
In 1876–77, an England team took part in what was retrospectively recognised as the first-ever Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against Australia. The rivalry between England and Australia gave birth to The Ashes in 1882, and this has remained Test cricket's most famous contest. Test cricket began to expand in 1888–89 when South Africa played England.
Eden Gardens in Kolkata has hosted the most Tests, and also has the second-largest seating capacity of any cricket stadium in the world, being capable of holding more than 66,000 spectators. Founded in 1864, it is one of the most historical stadiums in India, having hosted numerous historical and controversial matches. Other major stadiums in India include the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, which was established in 1883 and hosted memorable matches including Anil Kumble's ten wickets in an innings haul against Pakistan. For the last two years, the ground has been undergoing renovation.