Although cricket was introduced to India by European merchant sailors in the 18th century, and the first cricket club was established in Calcutta (currently known as Kolkata) in 1792, India's national cricket team did not play its first Test match until 25 June 1932 at Lord's, becoming the sixth team to be granted Test cricket status. In its first fifty years of international cricket, India was one of the weaker teams, winning only 35 of the first 196 Test matches it played. From 1932 India had to wait until 1952, almost 20 years for its first Test victory. The team, however, gained strength in the 1970s with the emergence of players such as batsmen Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath, all-rounder Kapil Dev and the Indian spin quartet of Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Bishen Singh Bedi.
India's victory against the Australians in 2001 marked the beginning of a dream era for the team under the captainship of Sourav Ganguly, winning Test matches in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, West Indies and England. India also shared a joint victory with Sri Lanka in the ICC Championship, and went on to the finals in the 2003 Cricket World Cup only to be beaten by Australia.
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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.
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.