The most famous player of the 19th century was W. G. Grace, who started his long and influential career in 1865. It was especially during the career of Grace that the distinction between amateurs and professionals became blurred by the existence of players like him who were nominally amateur but, in terms of their financial gain, de facto professional. Grace himself was said to have been paid more money for playing cricket than any professional.
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.
Under Kohli's captaincy, India was unbeaten in 19 Test matches, starting from a 3–0 series win over New Zealand and ending with a 2–1 series win over Australia. India has an unbeaten streak of winning 9 consecutive Test series as of Dec 2017, starting with a 2–1 series win over Sri Lanka. India also became only the third team after Australia and South Africa to have won their most recent Test series simultaneously against all the other Test playing nations. As per winning percentage in Test matches, Kohli is India's most successful test captain, having won more than 61% of Test matches (at least 2 games).
Before a match begins, the team captains (who are also players) toss a coin to decide which team will bat first and so take the first innings. Innings is the term used for each phase of play in the match. In each innings, one team bats, attempting to score runs, while the other team bowls and fields the ball, attempting to restrict the scoring and dismiss the batsmen. When the first innings ends, the teams change roles; there can be two to four innings depending upon the type of match. A match with four scheduled innings is played over three to five days; a match with two scheduled innings is usually completed in a single day. During an innings, all eleven members of the fielding team take the field, but usually only two members of the batting team are on the field at any given time. The exception to this is if a batsman has any type of illness or injury restricting his or her ability to run, in this case the batsman is allowed "A Runner" who can run between the wickets when the batsman hits a scoring run or runs. The order of batsmen is usually announced just before the match, but it can be varied.
The current sponsor of the team is BYJU's. OPPO's sponsorship was to run from 2017 until 2022, but was handed over to BYJU's on 5 September 2019. Previously, the Indian team was sponsored by Star India from 2014 to 2017, Sahara India Pariwar from 2002 to 2013 and ITC Limited (with Wills and ITC Hotels brands) from 1993 to 2002. The current kit sponsor for the Indian team until September 2020 is Nike, which in 2005 acquired the rights from BCCI. The deal with Nike has been extended twice for a period of five years each time; in 2011 and 2016 respectively. Paytm acquired the title sponsorship for all matches played by the team within India in 2015 and extended the same in 2019 until 2023. Star Sports Network is the official broadcaster until 2023 for all matches the team plays in India.
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.
In 2014, Virat Kohli became the first cricketer to win back-to-back man of the series awards in the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 and 2014 ICC World Twenty20. In 2017, Ravichandran Ashwin became the fastest cricketer in history to reach 250 wickets. He and Ravindra Jadeja are considered to be the best bowlers in Test cricket and occupy the top two spots in the rankings for Test bowlers as of May 2017. Virat Kohli became the first captain in history to score double tons in three consecutive series, against New Zealand, England and Bangladesh in 2017.
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.
A bowler reaches his delivery stride by means of a "run-up" and an over is deemed to have begun when the bowler starts his run-up for the first delivery of that over, the ball then being "in play". Fast bowlers, needing momentum, take a lengthy run up while bowlers with a slow delivery take no more than a couple of steps before bowling. The fastest bowlers can deliver the ball at a speed of over 145 kilometres per hour (90 mph) and they sometimes rely on sheer speed to try to defeat the batsman, who is forced to react very quickly. Other fast bowlers rely on a mixture of speed and guile by making the ball seam or swing (i.e. curve) in flight. This type of delivery can deceive a batsman into miscuing his shot, for example, so that the ball just touches the edge of the bat and can then be "caught behind" by the wicket-keeper or a slip fielder. At the other end of the bowling scale is the spin bowler who bowls at a relatively slow pace and relies entirely on guile to deceive the batsman. A spinner will often "buy his wicket" by "tossing one up" (in a slower, steeper parabolic path) to lure the batsman into making a poor shot. The batsman has to be very wary of such deliveries as they are often "flighted" or spun so that the ball will not behave quite as he expects and he could be "trapped" into getting himself out. In between the pacemen and the spinners are the medium paced seamers who rely on persistent accuracy to try to contain the rate of scoring and wear down the batsman's concentration.
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One possible source for the sport's name is the Old English word "cryce" (or "cricc") meaning a crutch or staff. In Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, he derived cricket from "cryce, Saxon, a stick". In Old French, the word "criquet" seems to have meant a kind of club or stick. Given the strong medieval trade connections between south-east England and the County of Flanders when the latter belonged to the Duchy of Burgundy, the name may have been derived from the Middle Dutch (in use in Flanders at the time) "krick"(-e), meaning a stick (crook). Another possible source is the Middle Dutch word "krickstoel", meaning a long low stool used for kneeling in church and which resembled the long low wicket with two stumps used in early cricket. According to Heiner Gillmeister, a European language expert of Bonn University, "cricket" derives from the Middle Dutch phrase for hockey, met de (krik ket)sen (i.e., "with the stick chase"). Gillmeister has suggested that not only the name but also the sport itself may be of Flemish origin.