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.
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.
Sunil Gavaskar took over as Test and ODI captain in 1978–79, leading India in 47 Test matches and 37 ODIs, winning 9 Tests and 14 ODIs. He was succeeded by Kapil Dev in the 1980s, who captained for 34 Test matches, including 4 victories. Kapil Dev led India to victory in 39 of his 74 ODIs in charge, including the 1983 Cricket World Cup. Kapil Dev also captained India's 2–0 Test series victory in England in 1986. Between 1987–88 and 1989–90, India had three captains in Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri and Krishnamachari Srikkanth. Vengsarkar took over the captaincy from Kapil Dev after the 1987 Cricket World Cup. Although he started with two centuries in his first series as captain, his captaincy period was turbulent and he lost the job following a disastrous tour of the West Indies in early-1989 and a stand-off with the Indian cricket board (BCCI).
The key to India's bowling in the 1970s were the Indian spin quartet – Bishen Bedi, E.A.S. Prasanna, BS Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan. This period also saw the emergence of two of India's best ever batsmen, Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath. Indian pitches have had the tendency to support spin and the spin quartet exploited this to create collapses in opposing batting line-ups. These players were responsible for the back-to-back series wins in 1971 in the West Indies and in England, under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar. Gavaskar scored 774 runs in the West Indian series while Dilip Sardesai's 112 played a big part in their one Test win.
During the 1980s, India developed a more attack-minded batting line-up with stroke makers such as the wristy Mohammed Azharuddin, Dilip Vengsarkar and all-rounders Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri. India won the Cricket World Cup in 1983, defeating the favourites and the two-time defending champions West Indies in the final at Lords, owing to a strong bowling performance. In spite of this, the team performed poorly in the Test arena, including 28 consecutive Test matches without a victory. In 1984, India won the Asia Cup and in 1985, won the World Championship of Cricket in Australia. Apart from this, India remained a weak team outside the Indian subcontinent. India's Test series victory in 1986 against England remained the last Test series win by India outside the subcontinent for the next 19 years. The 1980s saw Gavaskar and Kapil Dev (India's best all-rounder to date) at the pinnacle of their careers. Gavaskar made a Test record 34 centuries as he became the first man to reach the 10,000 run mark. Kapil Dev later became the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket with 434 wickets. The period was also marked by an unstable leadership, with Gavaskar and Kapil exchanging the captaincy several times.
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.
The game underwent major development in the 18th century to become England's national sport. Its success was underwritten by the twin necessities of patronage and betting. Cricket was prominent in London as early as 1707 and, in the middle years of the century, large crowds flocked to matches on the Artillery Ground in Finsbury. The single wicket form of the sport attracted huge crowds and wagers to match, its popularity peaking in the 1748 season. Bowling underwent an evolution around 1760 when bowlers began to pitch the ball instead of rolling or skimming it towards the batsman. This caused a revolution in bat design because, to deal with the bouncing ball, it was necessary to introduce the modern straight bat in place of the old "hockey stick" shape.
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.
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.