Although cricket was introduced to India by European merchant sailors in the 18th century, and the first cricket club was established in Calcutta (currently known as Kolkata) in 1792, India's national cricket team did not play its first Test match until 25 June 1932 at Lord's, becoming the sixth team to be granted Test cricket status. In its first fifty years of international cricket, India was one of the weaker teams, winning only 35 of the first 196 Test matches it played. From 1932 India had to wait until 1952, almost 20 years for its first Test victory. The team, however, gained strength in the 1970s with the emergence of players such as batsmen Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath, all-rounder Kapil Dev and the Indian spin quartet of Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Bishen Singh Bedi.
The bat is made of wood, usually salix alba (white willow), and has the shape of a blade topped by a cylindrical handle. The blade must not be more than four and one quarter inches (108 mm) wide and the total length of the bat not more than 38 inches (965 mm). There is no standard for the weight, which is usually between 2 lb 7 oz and 3 lb (1.1 and 1.4 kg).
The decision to attempt a run is ideally made by the batsman who has the better view of the ball's progress, and this is communicated by calling: usually "yes", "no" or "wait". More than one run can be scored from a single hit: hits worth one to three runs are common, but the size of the field is such that it is usually difficult to run four or more. To compensate for this, hits that reach the boundary of the field are automatically awarded four runs if the ball touches the ground en route to the boundary or six runs if the ball clears the boundary without touching the ground within the boundary. In these cases the batsmen do not need to run. Hits for five are unusual and generally rely on the help of "overthrows" by a fielder returning the ball. If an odd number of runs is scored by the striker, the two batsmen have changed ends, and the one who was non-striker is now the striker. Only the striker can score individual runs, but all runs are added to the team's total.
The addition of Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble to the national side in 1989 and 1990 further improved the team. The following year, Javagal Srinath, India's fastest bowler since Amar Singh made his debut. Despite this, during the 1990s, India did not win any of its 33 Tests outside the subcontinent while it won 17 out of its 30 Tests at home. After being eliminated by neighbours Sri Lanka on home soil at the 1996 Cricket World Cup semifinal, the team underwent a year of change as Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, later to become captains of the team, made their debut in the same Test at Lord's. Tendulkar replaced Azharuddin as captain in late 1996, but after a personal and team form slump, Tendulkar relinquished the captaincy and Azharuddin was reinstated at the beginning of 1998. With the captaincy burden removed, Tendulkar was the world's leading run-scorer in both Tests and ODIs, as India enjoyed a home Test series win over Australia, the best-ranked team in the world.
Cricket is a multi-faceted sport with multiple formats that can effectively be divided into first-class cricket, limited overs cricket and, historically, single wicket cricket. The highest standard is Test cricket (always written with a capital "T") which is in effect the international version of first-class cricket and is restricted to teams representing the twelve countries that are full members of the ICC (see above). Although the term "Test match" was not coined until much later, Test cricket is deemed to have begun with two matches between Australia and England in the 1876–77 Australian season; since 1882, most Test series between England and Australia have been played for a trophy known as The Ashes. The term "first-class", in general usage, is applied to top-level domestic cricket. Test matches are played over five days and first-class over three to four days; in all of these matches, the teams are allotted two innings each and the draw is a valid result.
2015 saw the beginning of India's dominance at home in Test matches under new captain Virat Kohli when they comprehensively beat South Africa. This series was the beginning of an unbeaten streak of 19 Test matches for India which was brought to an end by Australia in early 2017. This series also saw the emergence of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as two of the best spinners and all-rounders. They spun webs around touring batsmen, much like the spinning quartet of the 1970s. This was followed by limited overs victories over Australia and Sri Lanka away from home. India was knocked out of the 2015 World Cup in the semi-final stage, to eventual winners Australia. India began 2016 by winning the 2016 Asia Cup, remaining unbeaten throughout the tournament, beating Pakistan along the way. India were favourites to win the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 which was being held at home, but they lost in the semi-final to eventual champions West Indies. Virat Kohli was again named the man of the series.
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.
Traditionally much stronger at home than abroad, the Indian team has improved its overseas form, especially in limited-overs cricket, since the start of the 21st century, winning Test matches in Australia, England and South Africa. It has won the Cricket World Cup twice – in 1983 under the captaincy of Kapil Dev and in 2011 under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. After winning the 2011 World Cup, India became only the third team after West Indies and Australia to have won the World Cup more than once, and the first cricket team to win the World Cup at home. It also won the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 and 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, under the captaincy of MS Dhoni. It was also the joint champions of 2002 ICC Champions Trophy, along with Sri Lanka.
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.