Baseball may have once been considered America’s pastime, but long gone are the days when Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams dominated the world of American sports.
Due to better marketing and the sports offering more action, the NBA and NFL surpassed MLB in terms of popularity in the mid-to-late 1990s, with the NFL becoming the most profitable sports league in the world by the early part of the 21st century. As the NFL and NBA continue to fight for supremacy not only in the U.S., but also globally, one fact cannot be disputed: football and basketball have immersed itself into the fabric of American culture.
India — you are up next.
Just like how baseball played an important part in helping to create a more equal society in the United States, cricket’s popularity in India stems back to the days of the British Empire and its expansion. According to a BBC report, the first match in India was recorded in 1721 towards Western India. Since then, cricket has become more of a religion, with its stars being treated as heroes.
Much of this popularity, however, has been a result of the country having little else to offer in terms of sporting events. Outside of field hockey, which gained its notoriety in India thanks to the Indian National Field Hockey team winning a total of six Olympic gold medals between 1928 and 1956, the sports fans of India have historically had nothing to distract them from cricket.
With the introduction of American football to the Indian market through the EFLI (Elite Football League of India), cricket finally has met its match. With eight teams representing India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the league has a team for every region to root for:
Even though cricket has recently adopted the 20-over system to shorten the length of the match, the immediate excitement and satisfaction American football provides cannot be rivaled. There are “highlight” plays throughout a football game, unlike cricket which has just a handful in an entire match.
American football requires much more athleticism and intelligence than cricket, something fans will learn to understand and appreciate. Not only do the players have to be strong, fast and able to take contact, but they have to memorize dozens of plays and make in-game reads. NFL quarterbacks are expected to have a high IQ and pass the Wonderlic test.
Fun Fact: The Indian Premier League (IPL) and the EFLI seasons will not overlap. IPL matches usually begin around April, while EFLI games are scheduled to start later in the year towards November.
American football will have sports fans in India salivating for more. Does cricket provide nearly the same level of excitement? No. Does cricket provide the same quantity of excitement? Not even close. Does cricket provide the same physically and mentally competitive atmosphere that American football creates? Very, very rarely.
Just as enthusiasts never expected baseball to become an afterthought in the United States, sports fans in India will continue to hold on to cricket because history says they should. Just give it some time — soon kids will be walking to a nearby field with just a football and hopes to one day make it to the EFLI. The cricket bat, red deuce ball and wickets will be left at home as sideshows to the main attraction.