Historically, cricket's origins are uncertain and the earliest definite reference is in south-east England in the middle of the 16th century. It spread globally with the expansion of the British Empire, leading to the first international matches in the second half of the 19th century. The game's governing body is the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has over 100 members, twelve of which are full members who play Test matches. The game's rules are held in a code called the Laws of Cricket which is owned and maintained by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London. The sport is followed primarily in the Indian subcontinent, Australasia, the United Kingdom, southern Africa and the West Indies, its globalisation occurring during the expansion of the British Empire and remaining popular into the 21st century. Women's cricket, which is organised and played separately, has also achieved international standard. The most successful side playing international cricket is Australia, which has won seven One Day International trophies, including five World Cups, more than any other country and has been the top-rated Test side more than any other country.
India has had six regular Test captains since Mohammad Azharuddin took charge in 1989. Azharuddin led the team in 47 Test matches from 1989–90 to 1998–99, winning 14, and in 174 ODIs, winning 90. He was followed by Sachin Tendulkar, who captained the team in 25 Test matches and 73 ODIs in the late 1990s; Tendulkar was relatively unsuccessful as a captain, winning only 4 Test matches and 23 ODIs. He was replaced as ODI captain by Ajay Jadeja and then by Sourav Ganguly.
Cricket is one of many games in the "club ball" sphere that basically involve hitting a ball with a hand-held implement; others include baseball, golf, hockey, tennis, squash, badminton and table tennis. In cricket's case, a key difference is the existence of a solid target structure, the wicket (originally, it is thought, a "wicket gate" through which sheep were herded), that the batsman must defend. The cricket historian Harry Altham identified three "groups" of "club ball" games: the "hockey group", in which the ball is driven to and fro between two targets (the goals); the "golf group", in which the ball is driven towards an undefended target (the hole); and the "cricket group", in which "the ball is aimed at a mark (the wicket) and driven away from it".
Sachin Tendulkar, who began playing for India as a 16-year-old in 1989 and has since become the most prolific run-scorer in the history of both Test and ODI cricket, holds a large number of national batting records. He holds the record of most appearances in both Tests and ODIs, most runs in both Tests and ODIs and most centuries in Tests and ODIs. The highest score by an Indian is the 319 scored by Virender Sehwag in Chennai. It is the second triple century in Test cricket by an Indian, the first being a 309 also made by Sehwag although against Pakistan. The team's highest ever score was a 759/7 against England at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai in 2016, while its lowest was 42 against England in 1974. In ODIs, the team's highest score is 418/5 against West Indies at Indore in 2011–12. India score 413–5 in a match against Bermuda in 2007 World Cup which is the highest score ever in Cricket World Cup history. In the same match, India set a world record of the highest winning margin in an ODI match of 257 runs.
The next year saw mixed results in Tests for India: they lost away series in both South Africa and England, but won their away series against Australia, the first time they had won a series there. In home Tests, they defeated West Indies. They won the ODI leg of the South African tour, followed by the tri-series with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They lost 2–1 in the ODI series in England, followed by a win at home to West Indies and away to both Australia and New Zealand. At the start of 2019, Australia won a T20I series 2–0, representing Virat Kohli's first home defeat in a T20I series.
A match's statistics are summarised on a scorecard. Prior to the popularisation of scorecards, most scoring was done by men sitting on vantage points cuttings notches on tally sticks and runs were originally called notches. According to Rowland Bowen, the earliest known scorecard templates were introduced in 1776 by T. Pratt of Sevenoaks and soon came into general use. It is believed that scorecards were printed and sold at Lord's for the first time in 1846.
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.
Thirty-three men have captained the Indian cricket team in at least one Test match, although only six have led the team in more than 25 matches, and six have captained the team in ODIs but not Tests. India's first captain was CK Nayudu, who led the team in four matches against England: one in England in 1932 and a series of three matches at home in 1933–34. Lala Amarnath, India's fourth captain, led the team in its first Test match after Indian independence. He also captained the side to its first Test victory and first series win, both in a three-match series at home against Pakistan in 1952–53. From 1952 until 1961–62, India had a number of captains such as Vijay Hazare, Polly Umrigar and Nari Contractor.
Often, fans engage in protests regarding players if they believe that regionalism has affected selection, or because of regional partisan support for local players. In 2005, when Sourav Ganguly was dropped from the team, Ganguly's home town Kolkata erupted in protests. India later played a match against South Africa in Kolkata, West Bengal. The Indian team was booed by the crowd who supported South Africa instead of India in response to Ganguly's dropping. Similar regional divisions in India regarding selection have also caused protests against the team, with political activists from the regional Kalinga Kamgar Sena party in Odisha disrupting the arrival of the team in Cuttack for an ODI over the lack of a local player in the team, with one activist manhandling coach Greg Chappell. Similar treatment was handed to Sunil Gavaskar in the 1987 World Cup Semi Finals by crowds at Wankhede Stadium when he got bowled by Philip DeFreitas.