India is the home to many beliefs, culture, superstitions, and obsessions. But what is the one thing that binds all of us 1.3 Billion people, you don’t need a second guess to say it is cricket. Yes, cricket is undoubtedly the greatest sports in the Indian subcontinent.
And why not, billions of people have their sentiments conjoined with this majorly followed sport called cricket. But have you ever imagined, are there other sports followed and played in India with the same passion if not as much.
Yes, it is true that there are some sports that are played and followed in the majority and dominate the others in terms of sheer popularity and massive following.
But with the modern times, Indians are becoming more and more curious about other sports as well. Like Pro Kabaddi, Pro Boxing, ISL, there are many domestic tournaments other than cricket that is growing in fame and finance in India.
In this article, we will talk about the 10 most popular sports in India in terms of their massive popularity in India.
This shouldn’t come as any shocker to anyone. Cricket is undoubtedly the greatest sports in India. Well, the amount of people following this sport in India is way more than that of any sport in any country.
India has passion for cricket like Brazil, Argentina and other European countries has for football. And there are tons of reasons behind this insane passion and popularity.
Cricket matches are the most televised events in India and are promoted by all the premier sporting channels. But don’t let it distract you from the fact that India has been ravishing throughout the years in cricket world.
Indian performance in the world cricket is off the hook in the last 3-4 decades. From winning a total of 3 World cups and many other ICC tournaments to giving the most legendary players in the last 2 decades.
Indian greats includes legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni and many others. Cricketers are basically celebrities in India. They earn big bucks through their media promotions and the endorsements of some big brands in business.
With the new and promising talents like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma the future of cricket is bright in India and with the passing time it is certain that cricket is going to give the most favored sports in the world some serious challenge.
Well, cricket may be the most played sport in India but that doesn’t mean India has no love for the most popular sport in the World – Football.
In fact, football remains a mystery in India. We all love it, play it, watch it but still don’t promote it as much as cricket. Well, there is no denying India has some serious talent for football that even the former FIFA president Sepp Blatter called India the “sleeping giant” of football.
Although, now the leagues like ISL and i-league has gathered a quality amount of followers but the fame of football in India still linked with their love for European clubs.
Although, we have been playing football for as long as any other country but still haven’t qualified for the world cup even once. India has only acquired the rank 97 which is their best in the last 2 decades. Well, this can be seen as a collosal failure by Indian side compared to the demographics of the teams that are ahead of them.
India has utter love for the premier league. Manchester United being the most followed team in India. Many other clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich has some dedicated followership in India.
Cashing on the massive popularity of football in India, Indian Super League was introduced in 2014 and a viewership of 160 millions was recorded in the first season. Football is indeed a sleeping giant in India and we are gonna see big things coming very soon.
Kabaddi would be the only sport in this list which has Indian origin. Kabaddi is India’s ultimate gift to the world. It has been constrained within the Indian villages for so many years but now its back where it belongs all thanks to the Pro Kabaddi League.
Everyone in India knows what Kabaddi is and most of them have played this natural sport at some point. But people don’t follow the sport where there is no certain career. The introduction of the Pro Kabaddi League changed that.
Pro Kabaddi League was introduced in 2014 and since then it has become one of the most mainstream and popular sporting events in India. Became the second most popular league in India after IPL.
Which once was seen as a doomed sport is now one of the most happening events in India. The annually organized sports now has it all. Humongous viewership (especially in the rural areas because of the obvious fame) and grand sponsors willing to put money blindfolded.
Pro Kabaddi promises a bright future and there are tons of volunteers who are looking for a career in this sport. This year saw the first crorepati player in PKL.
India is also the world champions in Kabaddi. Iran is the only other country that shares the same passion for Kabaddi as India.
Badminton has always been popular in India and Indian players and teams have always been taking part in the biggest tournaments but the international recognition and success had been less imminent.
Although in recent times, India has proved its worth to international Badminton and some A class superstars like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu has emerged and established their names in the history books.
Saina Nehwal became the first Indian player to win a Bronze medal in the London 2012 Olympics and gave the much-needed push to badminton in India.
In 2016 Rio Olympics, Saina’s achievement was improved by her younger colleague PV Sindhu when she won a silver medal in the Women’s singles.
There are many other young badminton stars like K Srikant, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponappa who have made India proud in the international stages.
We cannot forget the contribution of the former Indian legends like Pullela Gopichand and Prakash Padukone who laid the foundation of Indian Badminton.
In 2013, a badminton tournament called Premier Badminton League was introduced and gained a decent viewership but seeing the potential of Indian players in the International platform the Badminton Association of India dissolved it.
The next Olympics games are 2 years away and we can expect some medals from the Indian badminton players.
Well, the national game of India- Hockey, is in 5th place because somewhere along the way we have lost our spark. India was undisputed in the earlier days in the sport of Hockey.
Hockey is undoubtedly the sport with most accomplishment in Olympics for India. The team led by Dhyanchand dominated and completely demolished the other competing teams and won the Olympic Gold medal 8 times.
The downfall in Indian hockey is mostly with the introduction of artificial hockey turf while Indians were used to and expert in playing in the grass. There were problems with the hockey federation of India and these flaws caused teams like Netherlands, Australia, Argentina, and Germany to rise up in the FIH ranks and game standards.
Hockey tried to rise many times since then, we have had great players who tried to rise hockey in India but our messed up system knocked them back every time.
Although, like other famous sports in India, a domestic professional hockey league called “Hockey India League” was started in 2013. It’s popularity may not be as much as of IPL but it sure gathered a quality and consistent following.
FIH recognized the potential in this tournament and granted a 30 days window to allow players from all the countries to participate.
Okay, I personally think Tennis should be up in the list. Tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world and it’s quite famous in India as well.
Although, we are not very popular on the singles events but on the doubles circuit we have been quite successful. Players like Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have won numerous Grand Slams doubles titles in their careers.
But India depends on these two stars way too much. While Bhupati retired a couple of years ago, Paes is getting there as well and without them, Indian tennis doesn’t look that promising. There are only a few experienced campaigners left like Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna in the ATP circuit. Somedev Devvarman retired last year as well.
In 2014, Mahesh Bhupathi launched a tennis tournament called “International Premier Tennis League” which included 4 teams from 4 countries in Asia called the Indian Aces, Japan Warriors, Singapore Slammers and UAE Royals.
But it only received mediocre success and appearances of stars such as Roger Federer and Pete Sampras to boost the viewership. Singapore Slammers is the most successful team so far with two titles to their names.
7. Wrestling (Kushti)
Wrestling or Kushti has been in India for centuries and it has a special connection bind with the people from villagers and rural India. And we have been very successful in Wrestling, having won a number of medals in the Olympics and many other World Class events.
Indian wrestling is quite different from the professional style of wrestling but the basic fundamentals are same. Indian grapplers have always made us proud in the biggest stage of Olympics, at least since 2008.
Sushil Kumar is the most successful Indian Olympian with 2 medals to his name. A bronze medal in 2008 and silver in 2012. But there are many others Indian wrestlers who have done good in the international circuit.
Wrestling has become insanely popular in Indian in the last 8 years or so. Even movies like Dangal and Sultan were based on Wrestling and became massive box-office successes.
The movie Dangal was based on the real-life story of a woman named Geeta Phogat who beat the odds to win the gold medal in the international championship.
Such movies have educated people about sports other than cricket which they had very less knowledge about. Though such sports still cannot surpass cricket domination over Indian sports fans but it will definitely create the necessary sports culture in India.
Boxing is another sport which in past some years have gained recognition and getting quite popular in India. Vijender Singh’s bronze in 2008 Olympics was the main reason behind the massive popularity of this sport in India.
Since then we have won many medals in the international stage. In 2012 London Olympics, MC Mary Kom won a bronze medal in women’s singles. A mega success movie was made on her life cheering her success starring Priyanka Chopra.
Although, the version of boxing played in the Olympics and other international events is called – Amateur Boxing.
Professional boxing is quite different, there are no head guards and the players represent themselves, not their respective countries.
In 2015, Vijender Singh turned pro and started his journey to the professional boxing world. Since then he has fought 10 times and won all of them.
He has been undisputed and also became the WBO Asia-Pacific champion. A feat no Indian has ever accomplished. He has also moved to 6th in the WBO Middle-weight rankings.
Boxing will surely become one of the favorite sports in India in the future.
A wide majority of people in the world likes to watch and take part in motorsports. India is not behind from anyone, there are many spectators and lovers of Motorsports in India.
Moto GP, Drag Racing, Dirt Biking is loved by many but the biggest motorsports that Indians are crazy about is – Formula 1.
Before 2005, nobody in India knew about F1. Then came Narayan Karthikeyan who became the first Indian ever to compete in a Formula 1 race when he signed with the Jordan Formula one team. Although, his car was very low in standards as compared to his competitors so he never won anything during his time at Jordan.
In 2011, Karun Chandhok became the second ever Indian to compete in the Formula 1 when he signed with HRT Formula One but shortly he was dropped due to poor executions and performances and replaced by the reserved.
India also has their own Formula One team called Force India and in 2017 they finished fourth with the record 187 points which is their highest points tally ever.
Apart from Formula 1, Indians are also crazy about Moto GP, in fact, India has their own Moto GP Racing team called Mahindra Racing. Although, we still have a lot to learn in Moto GP.
India also actively takes part in Rally racing. Gaurav Gill is a rally driver of team MRF Skoda who represents India in the Rally Racing sports and he is also the first Indian driver to have won the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in 2013.
Basketball has been around for a long time. Basketball is one of those games that we all have played at some points in our lives especially during our school days.
But still, we don’t see many Indian stars on the NBA roasters or playing in the international stage. But just like other sports, past few years has brought us some significant success in the Basketball.
Indian Women Basketball team qualified for the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup in Division A. This is the first time an Indian Basketball team accomplished something like that on an international platform.
Gurusimran “Sim” Bhullar from Canada became the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA. While, in 2015, Satnam Singh Bamara became the first Indian player to be drafted by an NBA team Dallas Mavericks.
He was drafted in the 52nd round and also became the first player to drafted while being a high school postgraduate.
India has high hopes from the basketball and we could see many young Indians getting drafted by NBA teams.
These are the top 10 sports that are popular and favored in India. This list is purely based on the amount of player participation and the viewership and followership in India. If you think there needs any improvement or something is missing, feel free to let us know in the comments section.
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