The game of cricket has become a rage across the globe, especially in countries like England, India, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, etc. Millions of cricket fans wait for four years to witness the next World Cup. With the start of the Twenty-Twenty Game and the IPL series, the rage has just gone up a notch. However, there are so many cricket fans out there who don’t even know the origin of the game, as to how it came into existence. Keeping in mind all such people, we have provided some interesting background information on cricket.
History of Cricket
The exact time of the inception of cricket, as a game, is not known. However, it is believed that the game was initiated during Saxon or Norman times, by children living in the Weald (southeast England). For the coming centuries, the game continued to be child’s play and it was only around 17th century that adults developed an interest in it. The earliest reference dates back to the 1611, when two men in Sussex were indicted for playing cricket on Sunday, instead of going to church. The same year, definition of cricket, as a boys' game, was noted.
Till the English Civil War, numerous other references can be seen that point out towards the fact that cricket had indeed been taken up as an adult sport. With the end of the war and the start of the Commonwealth period, the popularity of the game diminished a little. After the ‘Restoration’, in 1660, the game gained more recognition and with time, also started attracting gamblers, making large bets. By the end of the 17th century, gambling had entered the game big time. In fact, the game at Sussex, held in 1697, played for high stakes of 50 guineas a side.
With the growth of gambling in cricket, patronage also came to be seen. Gamblers started building up their own teams. Amongst the early patrons, the most notable ones comprised of a group of aristocrats and businessmen, who were active from about 1725. However, the first game using country names for teams was played in the year 1709. It was around this time only that cricket games started receiving press coverage also.
Though cricket had been introduced to North America in 17th century only, it moved to other countries in the 18th century. The colonists took the game, from England, to West Indies. As for India, the officials British East India Company brought it here in the first half of 18th century. In Australia, the diffusion of the game started as early as 1788, just when colonization had begun. However, countries like New Zealand and South Africa became acquainted with cricket only in the early years of the 19th century.
Formation of Rules
It was in the 18th century only when the procedure of formation of cricket rules began. Though the basic rules, of bat, ball, pitch, wicket, how out, etc had been there since ages, the year 1728 saw ‘Articles of Agreement’ being laid down. It was penned down to establish the code of practice in a particular game, especially in relation to payment of stake money and distribution of gambling winnings. ‘Laws of Cricket’ were formed for the first time in 1744 and saw an amendment 30 years later (1774). Finally, MCC was found at Lord's, in 1787, becoming the custodian of the Laws.
Eighteenth century also witnessed other developments in context of cricket. Sometime after 1760, the original form of bowling gave way to pitching of the ball. From 1772 onwards, the concept of scorecards came into existence. The first famous clubs of cricket came up in England, namely London and Dartford. With time, Slindon (Sussex), Maidenhead, Hornchurch, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Bromley, Addington, Hadlow and Chertsey were formed. Amongst all these, the most notable one was Hambledon. Though the game suffered setbacks, with Seven Years Wars and Napoleonic Wars, it managed to survive and prosper.
Nineteenth century witnessed changes in the organization of the teams. William Clarke formed the traveling ‘All-England Eleven’ in 1846 and encouraged many other similar teams. With the development of the railway network, teams from long distances started playing against each other and the game also started attracting spectators from distant places. In 1864, cricket witnessed legalization of over-arm and the publishing of ‘Wisden Cricketers' Almanack’. W G Grace, the ‘Great Cricketer’, also made his debut in the 19th century (1865).
Cricket Goes International and Tests Start
The first game of international cricket was played between USA and Canada, in 1844. The year 1850 saw the first overseas tour, by a team of leading English professionals, to North America. The inaugural Test match is believed to have been played on 15 March 1877 at Melbourne Cricket Ground , when an England team went on a tour to Australia. South Africa became the third nation to play test matches, in 1889. It was in 1890 that the first championship, County Cricket Championship, was formally constituted. Six-balls over was also adopted during the 19th century only.
In the year 1909, the Imperial Cricket Conference (now International Cricket Conference) was formed, with England, Australia and South Africa as members. With time, India, West Indies and New Zealand also became Test nations, followed by Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The ‘apartheid’ of South Africa became one of the greatest crises to hit the game of cricket. South Africa was suspended from International Cricket Conference. It formed ‘rebel tours’, offering money to international players for forming teams and tour South Africa. With the end of apartheid, things came back to normal.
One Day Cricket
It was in the 1960s that English county teams started playing a version of the today’s ‘one-day cricket’. It comprised on only one innings each and a maximum number of overs per innings. With time, the popularity of this type of game grew and the formation of a national league, in 1969, led to reduction in the number of matches in the County Championship. The first limited-overs international match was played at Melbourne Cricket Ground, in 1971, as a trial. However, it became immensely popular and is today played throughout the world.
ICC organized the first Cricket World Cup in England, in 1975, with all the Test playing nations as participant teams. The matches consisted of 60 six-ball overs per team, played during the daytime, in traditional form. Eight teams took part in the first tournament - Australia, England, the West Indies, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and a composite team from East Africa. Australia and West Indies reached the finals and the latter won the tournament. Since then, Cricket World Cup has been organized every four years.
World Cups till Date
1975 (England) - Won by West Indies
1979 (England) - Won by West Indies
1983 (England) - Won by India
1987 (India, Pakistan) - Won by Australia
1992 (Australia, New Zealand) - Won by Pakistan
1996 (Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka) - Won by Sri Lanka
1999 (England, Holland, Scotland, Ireland) - Won by Australia
2003 (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya) - Won by Australia
2007 (West Indies) - Won by Australia