Historically, cricket's origins are uncertain and the earliest definite reference is in south-east England in the middle of the 16th century. It spread globally with the expansion of the British Empire, leading to the first international matches in the second half of the 19th century. The game's governing body is the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has over 100 members, twelve of which are full members who play Test matches. The game's rules are held in a code called the Laws of Cricket which is owned and maintained by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London. The sport is followed primarily in the Indian subcontinent, Australasia, the United Kingdom, southern Africa and the West Indies, its globalisation occurring during the expansion of the British Empire and remaining popular into the 21st century. Women's cricket, which is organised and played separately, has also achieved international standard. The most successful side playing international cricket is Australia, which has won seven One Day International trophies, including five World Cups, more than any other country and has been the top-rated Test side more than any other country.
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.
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.
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).
Single wicket was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and its matches were generally considered top-class. In this form, although each team may have from one to six players, there is only one batsman in at a time and he must face every delivery bowled while his innings lasts. Single wicket has rarely been played since limited overs cricket began. Matches tended to have two innings per team like a full first-class one and they could end in a draw.
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.
If the match has only a single innings per side, then a maximum number of overs applies to each innings. Such a match is called a "limited overs" or "one-day" match, and the side scoring more runs wins regardless of the number of wickets lost, so that a draw cannot occur. If this kind of match is temporarily interrupted by bad weather, then a complex mathematical formula, known as the Duckworth-Lewis method after its developers, is often used to recalculate a new target score. A one-day match can also be declared a "no-result" if fewer than a previously agreed number of overs have been bowled by either team, in circumstances that make normal resumption of play impossible; for example, wet weather.
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.