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.
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.
Ranji Trophy – Founded as the 'Cricket Championship of India' at a meeting of the Board of Control for Cricket in India in July 1934. The first Ranji Trophy fixtures took place in the 1934–35 season. Syed Mohammed Hadi of Hyderabad was the first batsman to score a century in the tournament. The Trophy was donated by H.H. Sir Bhupendra Singh Mahinder Baha-dur, Maharajah of Patiala in memory of His late Highness Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji of Nawanagar, affectionately called as Ranjitsinhji. In the main, the Ranji Trophy is composed of teams representing the states that make up India. The number of competing teams has increased over the years. Some states have more than one cricket team, e.g. Maharashtra and Gujarat. There are also teams for Railways and Services representing the armed forces. The various teams used to be grouped into zones – North, West, East, Central and South – and the initial matches were played on a league basis within the zones. The top two (until 1991–92) and then top three teams (subsequent years) from each zone then played in a national knock-out competition. Starting with the 2002–03 season, the zonal system has been abandoned and a two-division structure has been adopted with two teams being promoted from the plate league and two relegated from the elite league. If the knockout matches are not finished they are decided on the first-innings lead.
A new jersey was unveiled by Nike with a bolder ultramarine blue shade and a new tricolour accent placed on both sides of the jersey in 2010. A reddish-orange shade was used as the secondary colour on this uniform. In 2014, new kits were released with a slightly darker shade of blue and a minimal accent design over the shoulders. Nike released new kits once again in 2015 with a similar shade of blue and no accents. In March 2019 before the World Cup, a new design was unveiled by Nike with a prominent two-tone blue colour. The front of the jersey sported a similar shade of blue as with the previous versions while the sides, arms and back were given a lighter shade of blue. A minimal orange accent was also incorporated on the sides. During the ICC World Cup 2019, for a match against England, as mandated by the ICC, an alternate jersey with orange acquiring the back and shoulders and navy blue at the front was introduced. This was the first time a different colour and not blue had become a dominant colour on the India jersey. The match against England was also a special match, called #OneDay4Children, organised by the ICC between the top 2 ranked ODI teams in 2019. Also, this happens to be the only occasion where the alternate jersey was used by India till date.
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.
India defeated Pakistan in their first game of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, winning by a convincing 124-run margin, but lost their second game of the group against Sri Lanka by 7 wickets despite posting a total of 321. In their final group game against South Africa, a must-win encounter, India won comfortably and sealed a spot in the semi-finals, against Bangladesh. India comfortably won the match by 9 wickets, and faced arch-rivals Pakistan in the final, the first time they had met at this stage of a tournament since 2007. In an anti-climax, considering India were the clear favourites, Pakistan defeated India comfortably by 180 runs in the final, outclassing them across all three departments.
In April 2009, India secured their first Test series win in New Zealand in 41 years. After beating Sri Lanka 2–0 in December 2009, India became the No. 1 Test team in the world. They retained the ranking by drawing series against South Africa and Sri Lanka. In October 2010, India whitewashed Australia 2–0 in the home test series, giving them back-to-back series wins against them. Later that year, India managed to draw the Test series in South Africa at 1–1.
The patrons, and other players from the social class known as the "gentry", began to classify themselves as "amateurs"[fn 1] to establish a clear distinction vis-à-vis the professionals, who were invariably members of the working class, even to the point of having separate changing and dining facilities. The gentry, including such high-ranking nobles as the Dukes of Richmond, exerted their honour code of noblesse oblige to claim rights of leadership in any sporting contests they took part in, especially as it was necessary for them to play alongside their "social inferiors" if they were to win their bets. In time, a perception took hold that the typical amateur who played in first-class cricket, until 1962 when amateurism was abolished, was someone with a public school education who had then gone to one of Cambridge or Oxford University – society insisted that such people were "officers and gentlemen" whose destiny was to provide leadership. In a purely financial sense, the cricketing amateur would theoretically claim expenses for playing while his professional counterpart played under contract and was paid a wage or match fee; in practice, many amateurs claimed somewhat more than actual expenditure and the derisive term "shamateur" was coined to describe the syndrome.
NKP Salve Challenger Trophy – Started as the Challenger series by the Board of Control for Cricket in India in 1994–95 and later named as NKP Salve Challenger Trophy in 1998–99. This tournament featured 3 teams: India senior, India A and India B playing each other in a round robin format. They were later renamed India Blue, India Red and India Green respectively. The tournament featured the top 36 players from across India. It was last contested in 2013–14.
The inter-war years were dominated by Australia's Don Bradman, statistically the greatest Test batsman of all time. Test cricket continued to expand during the 20th century with the addition of the West Indies (1928), New Zealand (1930) and India (1932) before the Second World War and then Pakistan (1952), Sri Lanka (1982), Zimbabwe (1992), Bangladesh (2000), Ireland and Afghanistan (both 2018) in the post-war period. South Africa was banned from international cricket from 1970 to 1992 as part of the apartheid boycott.
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.
Ganguly became the regular captain of the team in both Tests and ODIs in 2000. He remained captain until 2005–06 and became the then most successful Indian captain, winning 21 of his 49 Test matches in charge and 76 of his 146 ODIs. Under his captaincy, India became the joint-winners of the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka, and the runners-up of the 2003 Cricket World Cup. India lost only three Tests at home under Ganguly and managed to draw Test series in England and Australia. Rahul Dravid took over as Test captain in 2005. In 2006, he led India to its first Test series victory in the West Indies in more than 30 years.
Single wicket was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and its matches were generally considered top-class. In this form, although each team may have from one to six players, there is only one batsman in at a time and he must face every delivery bowled while his innings lasts. Single wicket has rarely been played since limited overs cricket began. Matches tended to have two innings per team like a full first-class one and they could end in a draw.