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.
At the grassroots level, local club cricket is essentially an amateur pastime for those involved but still usually involves teams playing in competitions at weekends or in the evening. Schools cricket, first known in southern England in the 17th century, has a similar scenario and both are widely played in the countries where cricket is popular. Although there can be variations in game format, compared with professional cricket, the Laws are always observed and club/school matches are therefore formal and competitive events. The sport has numerous informal variants such as French cricket.
The Indian women's cricket team has a much lower profile than the men's team. For all national women's cricket teams, the female players are paid much less their male counterparts, and the women's teams do not receive as much popular support or recognition as the men's team. The women's teams also have a less packed schedule compared to men's teams and play fewer matches. The Indian women's cricket team played its first Test match in 1976, when they drew with the West Indies in a six-match series.
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.
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.
In the visual arts, notable cricket paintings include Albert Chevallier Tayler's Kent vs Lancashire at Canterbury (1907) and Russell Drysdale's The Cricketers (1948), which has been called "possibly the most famous Australian painting of the 20th century." French impressionist Camille Pissarro painted cricket on a visit to England in the 1890s. Francis Bacon, an avid cricket fan, captured a batsman in motion. Caribbean artist Wendy Nanan's cricket images are featured in a limited edition first day cover for Royal Mail's "World of Invention" stamp issue, which celebrated the London Cricket Conference 1–3 March 2007, first international workshop of its kind and part of the celebrations leading up to the 2007 Cricket World Cup.