It is generally believed that cricket originated as a children's game in the south-eastern counties of England, sometime during the medieval period. Although there are claims for prior dates, the earliest definite reference to cricket being played comes from evidence given at a court case in Guildford on Monday, 17 January 1597 (Julian calendar; equating to 30 January 1598 in the Gregorian calendar). The case concerned ownership of a certain plot of land and the court heard the testimony of a 59-year-old coroner, John Derrick, who gave witness that:
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 skilled batsman can use a wide array of "shots" or "strokes" in both defensive and attacking mode. The idea is to hit the ball to the best effect with the flat surface of the bat's blade. If the ball touches the side of the bat it is called an "edge". The batsman does not have to play a shot and can allow the ball to go through to the wicketkeeper. Equally, he does not have to attempt a run when he hits the ball with his bat. Batsmen do not always seek to hit the ball as hard as possible, and a good player can score runs just by making a deft stroke with a turn of the wrists or by simply "blocking" the ball but directing it away from fielders so that he has time to take a run. A wide variety of shots are played, the batsman's repertoire including strokes named according to the style of swing and the direction aimed: e.g., "cut", "drive", "hook", "pull".
In 2016, "The Grand Home Season" began for India, including series at home against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia. India whitewashed New Zealand to regain the number one ranking in Test cricket after almost 10 years. Before the series against England in November 2016, MS Dhoni resigned as captain of India in limited overs, thus handing the captaincy to Virat Kohli across all formats. India beat England across all three formats, with a notable 4–0 win in the Test series. This was followed by Test series wins against Bangladesh and Australia, which meant India reclaimed the Border Gavaskar Trophy. Ravichandran Ashwin became the fastest cricketer of all time to reach 250 wickets; he and Ravindra Jadeja occupied the top two spots in both the ICC Bowlers and All-Rounders rankings at the time. In the process, India became the third team (after South Africa and Australia) to have won their most recent Test series against all the other Test-playing nations. India holds an unbeaten streak of 8 consecutive Test series wins as of 19 August 2017.
The advent of One Day International (ODI) cricket in 1971 created a new dimension in the cricket world. However, India was not considered strong in ODIs at this point and batsmen such as the captain Gavaskar were known for their defensive approach to batting. India began as a weak team in ODIs and did not qualify for the second round in the first two editions of the Cricket World Cup. Gavaskar infamously blocked his way to 36 not out off 174 balls against England in the first World Cup in 1975, India scored just 132 for 3 and lost by 202 runs.
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 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.
The world's earliest known cricket match was a village cricket meeting in Kent which has been deduced from a 1640 court case recording a "cricketing" of "the Weald and the Upland" versus "the Chalk Hill" at Chevening "about thirty years since" (i.e., c. 1611). Inter-parish contests became popular in the first half of the 17th century and continued to develop through the 18th with the first local leagues being founded in the second half of the 19th.
India has also had some very strong bowling figures, with spin bowler Anil Kumble being a member of the elite group of 3 bowlers who have taken 600 Test wickets. In 1999, Anil Kumble emulated Jim Laker to become the second bowler to take all ten wickets in a Test match innings when he took 10 wickets for 74 runs against Pakistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi.
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.