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India has had six regular Test captains since Mohammad Azharuddin took charge in 1989. Azharuddin led the team in 47 Test matches from 1989–90 to 1998–99, winning 14, and in 174 ODIs, winning 90. He was followed by Sachin Tendulkar, who captained the team in 25 Test matches and 73 ODIs in the late 1990s; Tendulkar was relatively unsuccessful as a captain, winning only 4 Test matches and 23 ODIs. He was replaced as ODI captain by Ajay Jadeja and then by Sourav Ganguly.
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.
A skilled batsman can use a wide array of "shots" or "strokes" in both defensive and attacking mode. The idea is to hit the ball to the best effect with the flat surface of the bat's blade. If the ball touches the side of the bat it is called an "edge". The batsman does not have to play a shot and can allow the ball to go through to the wicketkeeper. Equally, he does not have to attempt a run when he hits the ball with his bat. Batsmen do not always seek to hit the ball as hard as possible, and a good player can score runs just by making a deft stroke with a turn of the wrists or by simply "blocking" the ball but directing it away from fielders so that he has time to take a run. A wide variety of shots are played, the batsman's repertoire including strokes named according to the style of swing and the direction aimed: e.g., "cut", "drive", "hook", "pull".
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.
The British brought cricket to India in the early 1700s, with the first cricket match played in 1721. In 1848, the Parsi community in Bombay formed the Oriental Cricket Club, the first cricket club to be established by Indians. After slow beginnings, the Europeans eventually invited the Parsis to play a match in 1877. By 1912, the Parsis, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims of Bombay played a quadrangular tournament with the Europeans every year. In the early 1900s, some Indians went on to play for the England cricket team. Some of these, such as Ranjitsinhji and KS Duleepsinhji were greatly appreciated by the British and their names went on to be used for the Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy – two major first-class tournaments in India. In 1911, an Indian team went on their first official tour of the British Isles, but only played English county teams and not the England cricket team.
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.
India were whitewashed 4–0 in away Test series by England in August 2011 due to which England replaced India as the No. 1 Test team in the rankings. This series was followed by another 4–0 whitewash of India in January 2012 in Australia. The disastrous whitewashes saw the retirement of Dravid and VVS Laxman from Test cricket in 2012. Tendulkar retired in November 2013 after his 200th Test match. With Ganguly having retired in 2008, this period signalled the end of the fabled middle-order batting line-up India had for a decade. 2012 signalled a rough period for Indian cricket as they were beaten 2–1 by England at home in the Test series. This was the first Team India were beaten by England at home in the modern era. This was followed by a 2–1 loss in the ODI series against Pakistan, India's arch-rivals, at home. India was then knocked out in the second round of the 2012 ICC World Twenty20. India also failed to qualify for the 2012 Asia Cup final which closed out a disappointing 2012 for the Indian cricket team. 2013 saw a resurgence in Indian cricket.
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.