Cricket is one of many games in the "club ball" sphere that basically involve hitting a ball with a hand-held implement; others include baseball, golf, hockey, tennis, squash, badminton and table tennis. In cricket's case, a key difference is the existence of a solid target structure, the wicket (originally, it is thought, a "wicket gate" through which sheep were herded), that the batsman must defend. The cricket historian Harry Altham identified three "groups" of "club ball" games: the "hockey group", in which the ball is driven to and fro between two targets (the goals); the "golf group", in which the ball is driven towards an undefended target (the hole); and the "cricket group", in which "the ball is aimed at a mark (the wicket) and driven away from it".
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.
First-class cricket in England is played for the most part by the 18 county clubs which contest the County Championship. The concept of a champion county has existed since the 18th century but the official competition was not established until 1890. The most successful club has been Yorkshire, who had won 32 official titles (plus one shared) as of 2019.
Since 2000, the Indian team underwent major improvements under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly and guidance of John Wright, India's first ever foreign coach. India maintained their unbeaten home record against Australia in Test series after defeating them in 2001. The series was famous for the Kolkata Test match, in which India became only the third team in the history of Test cricket to win a Test match after following on. Australian captain Steve Waugh labelled India as the "Final Frontier" as a result of his side's inability to win a Test series in India. Victory in 2001 against the Australians marked the beginning of a dream run for India under their captain Ganguly, winning Test matches in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, West Indies and England. The England series is also known for India's highest ODI run-chase of 325 runs at Lord's which came in the Natwest ODI Series final against England. In the same year, India were joint-winners of the ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka and then went to the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa where they reached the final, only to be beaten by Australia. The 2003–04 season also saw India play out a Test series in Australia where they drew 1–1 with the world champions, and then win a Test and ODI series in Pakistan.
Subject to certain variations, on-field clothing generally includes a collared shirt with short or long sleeves; long trousers; woolen pullover (if needed); cricket cap (for fielding) or a safety helmet; and spiked shoes or boots to increase traction. The kit is traditionally all white and this remains the case in Test and first-class cricket but, in limited overs cricket, team colours are worn instead.
In December 2006, India played and won its first ever Twenty20 international in South Africa, becoming the most recent Test team to play Twenty20 cricket. The beginning of 2007 had seen a revival in the Indian team's ODI fortunes before the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Series victories against the West Indies and Sri Lanka, marked by the comeback of Ganguly, and strong form by Tendulkar, and the emergence of young players like Robin Uthappa saw many pundits to tip India as a real contender to win the 2007 Cricket World Cup. However, defeats to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka saw India fail to reach the second round.
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).
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.
Irani Trophy – The Trophy tournament was conceived during the 1959–60 season to mark the completion of 25 years of the Ranji Trophy championship and was named after the late Z.R. Irani, who was associated with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from its inception in 1928, till his death in 1970 and a keen patron of the game. The first match, played between the Ranji Trophy champions and the Rest of India was played in 1959–60. For the first few years, it was played at the tail end of the season. Realising the importance of the fixture, the BCCI moved it to the beginning of the season. Since 1965–66, it has traditionally heralded the start of the new domestic season. The Irani Trophy game ranks high in popularity and importance. It is one of the few domestic matches followed with keen interest by cricket lovers in the country. Leading players take part in the game, which has often been a sort of selection trial to pick the Indian team for foreign tours.
India failed to reach the final of the Asia Cup yet again in 2014. In the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 hosted in Bangladesh, India narrowly missed out on another ICC trophy by losing to Sri Lanka in the final. This tournament saw the rise of Virat Kohli as one of the best limited overs batsmen in world cricket, as he was adjudged the man of the series. India soon comprehensively beat Sri Lanka and West Indies in ODI series to cement their position at the top of the ODI rankings. India toured Australia towards the end of 2014 for a 4-match Test series, which is remembered for MS Dhoni's sudden retirement from Test cricket after the end of the second Test. Virat Kohli was appointed as the captain of Team India in Test matches but he was unable to turn the series around and India lost 2–0. Kohli's first series win as captain came away from home in a 3-match Test series vs Sri Lanka, which signalled the beginning of an unbeaten Test series run for India.
Fan rivalry and cross-border tension has created a strong rivalry between the Indian and the Pakistani cricket teams. In tours between these two nations, cricket visas are often employed to accommodate for the tens of thousands of fans wishing to cross the border to watch cricket. This intense fan dedication is one of the major causes of the BCCI's financial success.
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played on a cricket field (see image, right) between two teams of eleven players each. The field is usually circular or oval in shape and the edge of the playing area is marked by a boundary, which may be a fence, part of the stands, a rope, a painted line or a combination of these; the boundary must if possible be marked along its entire length.
The ICC also organises competitions that are for several countries at once, including the Cricket World Cup, ICC T20 World Cup and ICC Champions Trophy. A league competition for Test matches played as part of normal tours, the ICC World Test Championship, had been proposed several times, and its first instance began in 2019. A league competition for ODIs, the 2020–22 ICC Cricket World Cup Super League, is planned to begin in 2020. The ICC maintains Test rankings, ODI rankings and T20 rankings systems for the countries which play these forms of cricket.
Off the field in televised matches, there is usually a third umpire who can make decisions on certain incidents with the aid of video evidence. The third umpire is mandatory under the playing conditions for Test and Limited Overs International matches played between two ICC full member countries. These matches also have a match referee whose job is to ensure that play is within the Laws and the spirit of the game.