Cricket is the most popular sport in India by far,[4] and is played almost everywhere.[5] The Indian national cricket team won the 1983 Cricket World Cup, the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, the 2011 Cricket World Cup, the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, and shared the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka. The 2023 Cricket World Cup will be hosted by India.

The innings (ending with 's' in both singular and plural form) is the term used for each phase of play during a match. Depending on the type of match being played, each team has either one or two innings. Sometimes all eleven members of the batting side take a turn to bat but, for various reasons, an innings can end before they have all done so. The innings terminates if the batting team is "all out", a term defined by the Laws: "at the fall of a wicket or the retirement of a batsman, further balls remain to be bowled but no further batsman is available to come in".[63] In this situation, one of the batsmen has not been dismissed and is termed not out; this is because he has no partners left and there must always be two active batsmen while the innings is in progress.
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.[62]

In a two-innings-a-side match, one team's combined first and second innings total may be less than the other side's first innings total. The team with the greater score is then said to have "won by an innings and n runs", and does not need to bat again: n is the difference between the two teams' aggregate scores. If the team batting last is all out, and both sides have scored the same number of runs, then the match is a tie; this result is quite rare in matches of two innings a side with only 62 happening in first-class matches from the earliest known instance in 1741 until January 2017. In the traditional form of the game, if the time allotted for the match expires before either side can win, then the game is declared a draw.[66]
The Nawab of Pataudi, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, was the team's captain for 36 Test matches from 1961–62 to 1969–70, returning for another four matches against West Indies in 1974–75. In the early years of his captaincy tenure, the team was whitewashed in the West Indies, England and Australia. However, in 1967–68, Pataudi led India on its maiden New Zealand tour, which ended in India winning the Test series 3–1. In 1970–71, Ajit Wadekar took over the captaincy from Pataudi. Under Wadekar's captaincy, India registered its first Test series win in the West Indies and England. India played its first ODI in 1974, also under his captaincy. India won its first ODI under the captaincy of Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan in the 1975 Cricket World Cup, against East Africa. Between 1975–76 and 1978–79, Bishen Singh Bedi captained the team in 22 Tests and 4 ODIs, winning 6 Tests and one ODI.
Eden Gardens in Kolkata has hosted the most Tests, and also has the second-largest seating capacity of any cricket stadium in the world, being capable of holding more than 66,000 spectators. Founded in 1864, it is one of the most historical stadiums in India, having hosted numerous historical and controversial matches.[67] Other major stadiums in India include the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, which was established in 1883 and hosted memorable matches including Anil Kumble's ten wickets in an innings haul against Pakistan. For the last two years, the ground has been undergoing renovation.[68]
If a fielder is injured or becomes ill during a match, a substitute is allowed to field instead of him, but the substitute cannot bowl or act as a captain. The substitute leaves the field when the injured player is fit to return.[74] The Laws of Cricket were updated in 2017 to allow substitutes to act as wicket-keepers,[75] a situation that first occurred when Mumbai Indians' wicket-keeper Ishan Kishan was injured in a match on 18 April 2018.[76]
India recorded their first Test victory, in their 24th match, against England at Madras in 1952.[20] Later in the same year, they won their first Test series, which was against Pakistan.[21] They continued their improvement throughout the early 1950s with a series win against New Zealand in 1956. However, they did not win again in the remainder of the decade and lost badly to strong Australian and English sides. On 24 August 1959, India lost by an innings in the Test to complete the only 5–0 whitewash ever inflicted by England. The next decade saw India's reputation develop as a team with a strong record at home. They won their first Test series against England at home in 1961–62 and also won a home series against New Zealand. They managed to draw home series against Pakistan and Australia and another series against England. In this same period, India also won its first series outside the subcontinent, against New Zealand in 1967–68.
Additional runs can be gained by the batting team as extras (called "sundries" in Australia) due to errors made by the fielding side. This is achieved in four ways: no-ball, a penalty of one extra conceded by the bowler if he breaks the rules;[108] wide, a penalty of one extra conceded by the bowler if he bowls so that the ball is out of the batsman's reach;[109] bye, an extra awarded if the batsman misses the ball and it goes past the wicket-keeper and gives the batsmen time to run in the conventional way;[110] leg bye, as for a bye except that the ball has hit the batsman's body, though not his bat.[110] If the bowler has conceded a no-ball or a wide, his team incurs an additional penalty because that ball (i.e., delivery) has to be bowled again and hence the batting side has the opportunity to score more runs from this extra ball.[108][109]
However, there are downsides to having such a cricket-loving population. Many Indians hold cricket very close to their hearts and losses are not received well by the Indian population. In some cases, particularly after losses to Pakistan or after a long string of weak performances, there have been reports of player effigies being burnt in the streets and vandalism of player homes.[131] In many cases, players have come under intense attention from the media for negative reasons, this has been considered as one of the reasons for Sourav Ganguly being left out of the Indian team. At times, when a match is surrounded by controversy, it has resulted in a debacle. For example, when India slid to defeat against Australia at Brabourne Stadium in 1969, fans began throwing stones and bottles onto the field as well as setting fire to the stands, before laying siege to the Australian dressing rooms. During the same tour, a stampede occurred at Eden Gardens when tickets were oversold and India fell to another loss; the Australian team bus was later stoned with bricks .[132] A similar event occurred during the 1996 Cricket World Cup, where India were losing the semi-final to Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens. In this case, the fan behaviour was directed at the Indian team in disappointment at their lacklustre performance. An armed guard had to be placed at the home of captain Mohammad Azharuddin to ensure his safety.[132] Indian fans have also been passionate in their following of Sachin Tendulkar, who has been commonly thought of as one of the best batsmen in the world. Glorified for the bulk of his career, a riot occurred in early 1999 in a Test against Pakistan at Eden Gardens after a collision with Pakistani paceman Shoaib Akhtar saw him run out, forcing police to eject spectators and the game to be played in an empty stadium. Although in 2006, a string of low scores resulted in Tendulkar being booed by the Mumbai crowd when he got out against England[133]

The Laws state that, throughout an innings, "the ball shall be bowled from each end alternately in overs of 6 balls".[82] The name "over" came about because the umpire calls "Over!" when six balls have been bowled. At this point, another bowler is deployed at the other end, and the fielding side changes ends while the batsmen do not. A bowler cannot bowl two successive overs, although a bowler can (and usually does) bowl alternate overs, from the same end, for several overs which are termed a "spell". The batsmen do not change ends at the end of the over, and so the one who was non-striker is now the striker and vice-versa. The umpires also change positions so that the one who was at "square leg" now stands behind the wicket at the non-striker's end and vice-versa.[82]

A match's statistics are summarised on a scorecard. Prior to the popularisation of scorecards, most scoring was done by men sitting on vantage points cuttings notches on tally sticks and runs were originally called notches.[84] According to Rowland Bowen, the earliest known scorecard templates were introduced in 1776 by T. Pratt of Sevenoaks and soon came into general use.[85] It is believed that scorecards were printed and sold at Lord's for the first time in 1846.[86]