It's no surprise that cricket is the answer when one asks what is the most favourite sport in India. While the country's strong historical bonds with the British culture undoubtedly plays a role as to the reason behind this popularity, recent success at the international level also has been a major factor making it the most popular sport in India. India's love for cricket is deep-rooted, ever since the Parsee and the Hindu took on each other and their lords. The British governing body in India attached a lot of prestige to the game. Large crowds would gather to enjoy the game even at its primitive stage. After around 150 years, cricket is what unifies this land of diversity.
Football may not come to our mind when we ask, "What sport is India famous for?" But the recent changes in sports scenario are proving it to be different. The national football team jumped up to the 100th position from 136th in world ranking, having won 11 of the last 13 matches since the November of 2015. Add to that, the U-17 World Cup is also scheduled to be hosted by the country. India has already cleared a spot in this prestigious tournament being the host country. The governing body (AIFF) will bid for the next FIFA World Cup depending on the performance in the U-17 tournament. Football has always been among the top 3 sports in Bengal and the complete North-Western India. However, since the late 20th century, Goa and Mumbai have been the lesser known footballing hub of the country.
Much like cricket, when it comes to hockey one does not need too much of introduction to it; hockey being one of the most favourite sports in India. Hockey in India had seen its peak during the 1920s to the 1950s, being unbeaten in the Olympics and boasting six gold medals. However, after the introduction of the AstroTurf, this success had quickly been forgotten and the team was left struggling on international stage. Although recently they have been trying to improve their performance, they are nowhere near the good old days. Nevertheless, it is still one of the top 3 sports in India and people still love the team in their endeavours.
Tennis is one of the latest sports to be hailed by the Indian sports audience. 40% of households in India have been reported to keep an interest in the sport. There has been a hike in this figure just around the time of Wimbledon 2016. While tennis did remain a game of the high class society, it can be said that it is getting more and more accessible to the middle class. Among the icons of tennis in India, Sania Mirza is the most prolific, much to her being a symbol of equality in the society as far as women and the Muslim community is concerned.
Although it is only the fifth most popular sport in India, badminton is played by the second most number of people in the country, second only to cricket. Saina Nehwal remains one of the most distinguished players, having won the bronze medal in 2012 Olympics. However, quite recently P.V Sindhu stole the show after winning the silver medal in the last Olympics.
Like most other major sports in India, table tennis (TT) was brought to the country by the British. Although just one Indian TT player, Sharath Kamal, ranks in the top 50 players in the world, it is an extremely popular game among the Indian youth. Numerous tourneys are held at inter-school and state level.
Unlike any other sport in this list of India's main sports, basketball has been actively growing it's popularity over the last decade. The NBA has targeted India after China to preach the popularity of basketball and hopes to rival cricket in terms of popularity in the country. The campaign is also going to be supported by the three super-giant sporting industries - Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.
Moving on to the next famous sport in India, Motorsport must be mentioned for its uprising awareness and viewership. According to a survey, an increase of 17% was recorded in viewership of motorsports in the last 6 years. There are just two racers, Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, who have taken part in Formula One from India. The former had made his debut in F1 in 2005 for the team Jordans. He was also a part of the team HRT during 2011 and 2012. Karun Chandhok began his F1 career in 2010 with the HRT. Among the rising stars, Arya Singh is one for the future, hopefully.
Among the top 20 sports in India, boxing is the most googled Olympic game in India, and that is the reason it has been placed at number 13 here. However, Indian boxing has not really been up to the anticipated level, mostly due to internal corruption within the governing body apart from insufficient and limited funding from the Government. Indians are the sixth most enthusiastic boxing fans in the world.
Indian gymnasts made their mark mostly in the Commonwealth Games. First in 2010 when Ashish Kumar became the first Indian to win a medal at an international gymnastics stage. He secured a bronze medal but the controversial comments from the President of the Gymnastics Federation of India pointing at the "underachievement" of the coach was widely reported in the media. Dipa Karmakar, another Indian gymnast also won the bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games becoming the first female Indian gymnast to reach such standard. However she missed the bronze at the last Olympics just by whiskers. She's also one of the five women to successfully complete the Produnova, which is considered as the most difficult vault performed so far by any female gymnast.
From the ancient times, martial arts have been an integral part of the Indian Subcontinent. In modern times, this has been more prevalent along with wrestling in the form of MMA. With growing idolisation of Connor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, it is rumoured that soon an India based championship will be formed like the UFC in the US.
Cycling is an everyday activity for most Indians, be it for transportation, fitness, recreation or profession. It was first introduced by Jankidas and Sohrab Bhoot when they participated in the British Empire Games in 1938. In the last six years, India has seen a healthy growth in the cycling community much to the awareness of its fitness and recreational values. However, lack of international success is yet again the reason for reduced popularity of this game in India.
Though Scuba diving may not come to our mind while discussing the most favourite sports in India, still it is a sport worth mentioning here. It's one of the most amusing water sports if you really enjoy your time with Mother Nature. Earlier the essence of scuba diving was restricted only up to the islands. We can say that only in the last fifteen years, scuba diving has been more accessible to the public than it was before. International participation is still a long way ahead for Indians though. Andaman, Goa and Pondicherry are three of the few natural sites for scuba diving in India.