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.
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.
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.
As illustrated above, the pitch is marked at each end with four white painted lines: a bowling crease, a popping crease and two return creases. The three stumps are aligned centrally on the bowling crease, which is eight feet eight inches long. The popping crease is drawn four feet in front of the bowling crease and parallel to it; although it is drawn as a twelve-foot line (six feet either side of the wicket), it is, in fact, unlimited in length. The return creases are drawn at right angles to the popping crease so that they intersect the ends of the bowling crease; each return crease is drawn as an eight-foot line, so that it extends four feet behind the bowling crease, but is also, in fact, unlimited in length.
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.
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During the 1970s, the Indian cricket team began to see success overseas beating New Zealand, and holding Australia, South Africa and England to a draw. The backbone of the team were the Indian spin quartet – Bishen Bedi, E.A.S. Prasanna, BS Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan, giving rise to what would later be called the Golden Era of Indian cricket history. This decade also saw the emergence of two of India's best ever batsmen, Sunil Gawaskar and Gundappa Vishwanath responsible for the back-to-back series wins in 1971 in the West Indies and in England, under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar.
In September 2007, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was named as the new captain of the ODI and T20I teams, after Dravid stepped down from the post. Soon after taking up the captaincy, Dhoni led the team to the inaugural World Twenty20 title. Anil Kumble was appointed Test captain in November 2007, but retired from international cricket in November 2008 after captaining in 14 Tests. Dhoni succeeded him as the Test captain, making him the captain in all formats. Under the captaincy of Dhoni, the Indian team held the number one position in the Test rankings for 21 months (from November 2009 to August 2011), and set a national record for most back-to-back ODI wins (nine straight wins). Dhoni also led the team to victory in 2011 Cricket World Cup and 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. Thus, Dhoni became the first captain in history to win all three major ICC trophies, namely- ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011, ICC World Twenty20 in 2007 and ICC Champions Trophy in 2013. He is widely regarded as India's best ever captain. However, the team performed poorly in away Tests from 2011 to 2014 and Dhoni retired from Test cricket in December 2014, with Virat Kohli being named as the new Test captain. Dhoni resigned as captain of the ODI and T20 teams in January 2017 and Kohli succeeded him at the position.
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.