Sunil Gavaskar
Ian Botham
Vivian Richards

History Of Cricket

Cricket has been an organized adult game since the seventeenth century when it first took the fancy of English gentlemen lying low in their country estates at the time of the Civil War. It became fashionable after the restoration under the sponsorship of powerful aristocratic patrons.

By the later eighteenth century control of this fashionable and profitable new leisure activity was in the hands of a number of gentlemen’s clubs. By the nineteenth century these had evolved into county organisations which, led by Marylebone Criket Club, subsequently dominated English cricket. Their influence spread throughout the British Empire and survived the transition to the Commonwealth.

In England, the emerging public schools, believing that cricket fostered qualities of manliness and leadership, proclaimed it to be more than a game, in fact an institution. Poets and parsons praised its ethical qualities. By the turn of the century cricket had come to assume profound political significance, especially for imperialists. An Indian prince declared it to be the finest flower of Empire, and in Australia cricket captains played a leading part in welding together the separate colonies into a nation.

After the First World War, the dream-world began to crumble. At home the golden age gave way to unromantic but remarkably effective professionalism. The Test matches survived bodyline and grew in importance.

The Second World War was no more than a temporary interruption of play. After the War was over, despite the world's having changed for worse again, the spiritual significance of cricket was reasserted with undiminished enthusiasm. A well-loved Australian Prime Minister described it as a fine art as well as a game. A great British Prime Minister, and a socialist told of his childhood indoctrination with the belief that cricket was a religion and W.G. next to the Almighty.

For a few summers the public, starved of entertainment during the war years, showed their appreciation of cricket's return by crowding through the turnstiles. But it was not to last, and soon perceptive critics were solemnly linking the Welfare State and slow play as cause and effect. The county pattern had lost much of its meaning, and the games had become largely inaccessible to those who had to work during the week. So the authorities turned for support to commercial sponsors who introduced a growing range of mini-cricket matches with gimmicky rules. Televised cricket matches publicised the wares of cigarette manufacturers who were barred from conventional advertising. The counties had also imported a growing number of overseas stars who made the turnstiles click.

Then in 1977 a new patron arose, an Australian magnate who decided to stage his own brand of super-cricket. In a matter of months, following his failure to secure exclusive television rights for a test series, Mr. Kerry Packer had set up an organisation which lured some fifty of the world's best cricketers away from their traditional allegiances to play for fat salaries and spectacular prizes as a rival attraction to the official Tests between Australia and India. The WestIndians turned out - initially, at least - to be the best Super Cricketers.

What began as a concept to attract crowds to the English county cricket grounds, became a revolution. The Test and County cricket Board introduced the Gillete Cup (65 overs a side, later curtailed to 60) and the Sunday League (40 overs a side) for enthusiasts who wanted both drama and excitement packed in a day’s game. In the early 60s and 70s, England was the only country where competitive limited overs cricket was being played. Not surprising that England hosted the inaugural World Cup. The inaugural World Cup was a financial hit. Crowds flocked to see the matches, 1,20,000 for the 12 preliminary contests and a further 28,000 packing the final. Limited overs match has come a long way since then. It is moresophisticated now and given rise to a new thinking on tactics to the extent that countries now have specialist one-day players. 

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Kapil Dev
Imran Khan
Garry Sobers
Richard Hadlee

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