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Sport in India
Sport in India refers to the large variety of games played in India, ranging from tribal games to more mainstream sports such as cricket, badminton and football. India’s diversity of culture, people and tribes as well as its colonial legacy is reflected in the wide variety of sporting disciplines in the country.
Cricket is the most popular sport in India, the country having hosted and won multiple Cricket World Cups. Field hockey is the most successful sport for India at the Olympics; the Indian men’s team has won eight Olympic gold medals. Kabaddi is the most popular indigenous sport in the country. Other popular sports in India are badminton, football, shooting, wrestling, boxing, tennis, squash, weightlifting, gymnastics, athletics, table tennis, basketball, volleyball and cycling. Popular indigenous sports include chess, kho-kho, kite-fighting, leg cricket, polo, snooker and gillidanda.
India has hosted and co-hosted several international sporting events, most notably the 1987, 1996 and 2011 Cricket World Cups, the 1951 and 1982 Asian Games, the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Domestic professional sports leagues in the country include the Indian Premier League (Twenty20 cricket), the I-League and the Indian Super League (football), the Pro Kabaddi League (kabaddi), the Hockey India League (hockey), Premier Badminton League (badminton), the Pro Wrestling League (wrestling), the Ultimate Table Tennis league (table tennis), and the Pro Volleyball League (volleyball). The Ultimate Kho-Kho League is expected to launch in 2020, having attracted a major sponsorship deal with Dabur.
Major international sporting events annually held in India include the Chennai Open in tennis, the Indian Open in golf, and the India Open in badminton.
The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna is India’s highest award for achievement in sports, while the Dronacharya Award is awarded for excellence in coaching.
Ancient and Medieval period
The world’s oldest stadium with terraced stands was constructed at Dholavira, Gujarat during 3rd millennium BCE. Two stadiums have been identified at the ancient site, one is considered a ceremonial ground, another, a small stadium.
The importance of sports was also evident in India in the Vedic era. Physical culture in ancient India was fuelled by religious rights. The mantra in the Atharvaveda says, “Duty is in my right hand and the fruits of victory in my left.” In terms of an ideal, these words hold the same sentiments as the traditional Olympic Oath: “For the Honour of my Country and the Glory of Sport.”
The modern game of badminton has developed from an old children’s game known in England as battledore and shuttlecock, a game popular in ancient India. The battledore was a paddle and the shuttlecock a small feathered cork, now usually called a “bird”.
Games like chess and snakes and ladders originated from the ancient Indian games chaturanga and gyan chauper, respectively; these were later transmitted to foreign countries, where they were further modernized.
During the rule of the Mughal Empire, a form of wrestling known as pehlwani developed, by combining native malla-yuddha with influences from Persian varzesh-e bastani.
British Colonial period
The Indian Hockey team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, later going on to defeat Germany 8–1 in the final.
During the colonial period, British India[a] competed at six Olympic Games, notably winning medals in field hockey.
Snooker originated in the late 19th century among British Army officers stationed in India.
Modern polo originated in British India in the 19th century,[b] from Manipur, where the game was known as ‘Sagol Kangjei’, ‘Kanjai-bazee’, or ‘Pulu’. The name “polo” is the anglicized version of the latter. The first polo club was established in Silchar, Assam, in 1833. The oldest polo club still in existence is the Calcutta Polo Club, which was established in 1862.
Dorabji Tata, with the support of Dr. A.G. Noehren, then director of YMCA, established the Indian Olympic Association in 1927.
The Eden Gardens in Kolkata, established in 1864, is the oldest and largest cricket stadium in India, and has hosted many important international matches.
India hosted the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1951 and 1982. The current Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports was initially set up as the Department of Sports in 1982 at the time of organisation of the Games in New Delhi. Its name was changed to the Department of Youth Affairs & Sports during celebration of the International Youth Year in 1985. India has also hosted or co-hosted several international sporting events, including the 1987, 1996 and 2011 Cricket World Cups, the 2003 Afro-Asian Games, the 2010 Hockey World Cup, and the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Major international sporting events annually held in India include the Chennai Open, the Mumbai Marathon and the Delhi Half Marathon. The country hosted the first Indian Grand Prix in 2011.
Political responsibility for sport in India lies with the Department of Sports under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports; the department runs under the charge of a Secretary to the Government of India, while the ministry is headed usually by a Minister of State. A ministry-recognised National Sports Federation (NSF) represents each Olympic and non-Olympic sport, the only major exception being the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which is not an NSF.As of 2019, 56 NSFs are recognised by the ministry. The presence of politicians at the helm of many such federations has been criticised for causing inefficiency and corruption.
Sports Authority of India, the field arm of the ministry, supports and nurtures talent in youth, and provides them with requisite infrastructure, equipment, coaching facilities and competition exposure.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is responsible for the Indian contingent’s participation in the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games (outdoor, indoor and beach), and South Asian Games. The selection of the national teams is done by the respective national federations and then recommended to the IOA for official sponsorship for participation in those games.
The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna is India’s highest award for achievement in sports. It recognises “the spectacular and most outstanding performance in the field of sports by a sportsperson”. As of 2018, the award comprises a medallion, a certificate, and a cash prize of ₹7.5 lakh (US$11,000).
The Dronacharya Award is awarded for excellence in coaching. It honours coaches “who have done outstanding and meritorious work on a consistent basis”, and is meant to motivate them towards “raising the standard of sportspersons”. As of 2017, the award comprises a bronze statuette of Dronacharya, a certificate, ceremonial dress, and a cash prize of ₹5 lakh (US$7,200).
India at major international sports events
Main article: India at the Olympics
A single athlete, Norman Pritchard, represented India in the 1900 Olympics, winning two silver medals. India sent its first national team to the Olympics in 1920, and has participated in every Summer Olympic Games ever since. India has also competed at several Winter Olympic Games since 1964.
As of 2016, India has won a total of 28 Summer Olympic medals. India won its first gold medal in men’s field hockey in the 1928 Olympic Games. On winning the 10m air rifle event at the 2008 Olympics, Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympic Games, and India’s first gold medal since 1980, when the men’s field hockey team had won the gold.
Main article: India at the Commonwealth Games
Tennis player Sania Mirza has won multiple medals, including in various Grand Slam events, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
India has competed in all but four editions of the Commonwealth Games, starting at the second Games in 1934. India has hosted the Games once, in 2010 at Delhi. India is the fourth-most successful country at the games; it has won a total of 504 medals, including 181 gold medals.
Main article: India at the Asian Games
India has participated in every edition of the Asian Games, and has hosted the Games in 1951 and 1982 at New Delhi. As of 2018, India is the sixth-most successful country, winning 671 medals, including 139 golds. India has won at least one gold medal in each tournament.
The National Games of India
Main article: National Games of India
The National Games of India are conducted by the Indian Olympic Association and are meant to identify national sporting talents who can be selected for the Olympics. The first National Games, then called the Indian Olympic Games, were held in Lahore in 1924, while the first modern Games were held in New Delhi in 1985.
Main article: Field hockey in India
India women’s national field hockey team, 2013
Field Hockey is a popular sport in India. Until the mid-1970s, India men’s team dominated international field hockey, winning seven Olympic gold medals and won the 1975 Men’s Hockey World Cup. Since then, barring a gold medal at the 1980 Olympics, India’s performance in field hockey has been dismal, as Australia, Netherlands and Germany improved. Its decline is also due to the change in rules of the game, introduction of artificial turf, and internal politics in Indian field hockey bodies. The popularity of field hockey has also declined massively parallel to the decline of the Indian hockey team. In recent years, the standard of Indian hockey has deteriorated, with the Men’s team not qualifying for the 2008 Olympics and finishing last in the 2012 Olympics. Since 2014, the men’s team has improved, becoming runners up at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, then winning 2014 Asian Games gold and 2017 Men’s Hockey Asia Cup, finally restoring dominance in Asia. Before that India lost to Belgium in the quarter final of 2016 Rio Olympics. Currently, the Indian men’s team is 5th in the rankings of the Fédération Internationale de Hockey sur Gazon (FIH, English:International Hockey Federation), the international governing body of field hockey and indoor field hockey.
The Women’s team came of age in 1980 when they first participated at the Summer Olympics and achieved the fourth place. The first golden moment for the team was in 1982 at the Asian Games. Since then not much of happening moments in the team history, though in 2016 after 34 years, it is a little hope when Indian women’s team qualified for the Summer Olympics and they went on to win the 2017 Women’s Hockey Asia Cup claiming the Asian dominance after 2004. India Women’s team failed to win any medal in the Women’s Hockey World Cup. The present team is ranked 10th by the Fédération Internationale de Hockey.
India has hosted three Men’s Hockey World Cups–one in 1982 in Mumbai, another in 2010 in Delhi, where they finished fifth and eighth respectively, and the third at Bhubaneswar in 2018. India also hosted the annual Hockey Champions Trophy in 1996, 2005 2014 and 2016. Until 2008, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was the apex body for hockey in the country. However, following revelations of corruption and other scandals in the IHF, the federation was dissolved and de-recognised, and a new apex body for Indian hockey called Hockey India (HI) was formed on 20 May 2009, with support from the IOA and former hockey players. HI, recognised by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), has the sole mandate to govern and conduct all activities for both men’s and women’s field hockey in India. Although the IHF was reinstated in 2010,it is not recognised by the FIH. The IHF conducts a franchise-based tournament called World Series Hockey (WSH), with its first season conducted in 2012. However, it is not approved by HI or the FIH.
HI also conducts a franchise-based tournament called the Hockey India League (HIL). Its first season was in 2013 and is inspired from the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI’s) highly successful Indian Premier League. The tournament is recognised by the FIH, which has also decided to provide a 30-day window for the forthcoming seasons so all top players can participate.
Main article: Football in India
See also: All India Football Federation, India national football team, and India women’s national football team
Sayed Rahim Nabi of East Bengal FC and Daniel of Chirag United SC during I-League at Salt Lake Stadium.
Football was introduced to India during the British colonial period. Although India has never been represented in any FIFA World Cup, it did qualify in 1950, though it did not take part, as they were not allowed to play barefoot. India was an Asian powerhouse in football in the 1950s and 1960s. During this golden era, India created history as the first Asian team to reach semi-finals in an Olympic football tournament in 1956 Summer Olympics at Melbourne and Neville D’Souza became the first Asian and Indian to score a hat-trick (record remains unbeaten) in an Olympic match. India also finished as runners-up in the 1964 AFC Asian Cup. But later on, the standard of football started to decline due to lack of professionalism and fitness culture. India currently ranks 97th in the FIFA rankings as of 10 August 2017.
Football is, nevertheless, widely popular both as a spectator sport, and as a participation sport in some parts of the country such as Kerala, West Bengal, Karnataka, Goa and the Northeast. The India national football team represents India in all FIFA tournaments. The Yuva Bharati Krirangan of Kolkata was the second largest non-auto racing stadium in the world.
In June 1937, at the Army Headquarters, Shimla, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) was formed at a meeting of the representatives of football associations of six regions where the game was very popular in those days. It is the governing body for football in India. Domestic competitions for men’s football include the Indian Super League, I-League, I-League 2nd Division in the Indian League System and the annual knock-out style Federation Cup. For women’s football, the India women’s football championship. However, it is European football, such as the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, and the UEFA Champions League, which are very popular among Indian football fans, especially in metropolitan cities.
FIFA revealed on 5 December 2013 (as part of their Executive Committee meets in Salvador, Brazil), that India would be the host of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, the 17th U-17 FIFA World Cup. This was the first international football competition at world level hosted by India. To help increase interest in youth football in advance of the 2017 U-17 World Cup, India launched the Mission XI Million programme. The matches were held from 6 to 28 October in the cities of New Delhi, Kolkata, Kochi, Navi Mumbai, Guwahati and Margao.
FIFA granted India the hosting rights for the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, which was rescheduled to be held between 17 February – 7 March 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.On 17 November 2020, FIFA Council announced that the event was postponed until 2022.
Main article: Tennis in India
See also: All India Tennis Association
Mahesh Bhupati (left), and Leander Paes (right)
Tennis is a sport among Indians in urban areas. Tennis has gained popularity after the exploits of Vijay Amritraj. India’s fortunes in Grand Slam singles have been unimpressive, although Leander Paes won a singles bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics. Since the late 1990s India has had impressive results in Grand Slam doubles, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have won many men’s doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. Sania Mirza is the most notable Indian woman tennis player, having won a WTA title and breaking into the Top 30 WTA rankings, also winning three Grand Slam doubles events, the first at Wimbledon in 2015. On the men’s side, young Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri are flying India’s flag on the ATP Tour. Yuki was the Australian Open junior singles champion in 2009. Rohan Bopanna has won two mixed doubles titles.
Main article: Badminton in India
Indian badminton’s leading women’s pair of Jwala Gutta (left) and Ashwini Ponnappa, 2010.
Badminton is played widely in India and it is one of the most popular sports in India. Badminton is a fast growing sport in India. Badminton’s popularity has grown in recent years. Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal, K. Srikanth and P.V. Sindhu are ranked amongst top-10 in current BWF ranking. Prakash Padukone was the first player from India to achieve world no.1 spot in the game and after him K. Srikanth made it to the top spot as male player for second time in April 2018 and Saina Nehwal is the first female player from India to achieve World no.1 spot in April 2015. The most successful doubles player from India is Jwala Gutta, who is the only Indian to have been ranked in the top-10 of two categories. She peaked at no. 6 with Valiyaveetil Diju in mixed doubles and at no. 10 with Ashwini Ponnappa in women’s doubles. Other successful players include Aparna Popat, Pullela Gopichand, Syed Modi, Chetan Anand, Parupalli Kashyap, Prannoy Kumar, Ashwini Ponnappa, Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and N. Sikki Reddy.
Padukone and Gopichand, both won the All England Open in 1980 and 2001, respectively, making them the only Indians to ever win the prestigious title. At the 2012 London Olympic Games, Nehwal won the bronze medal in the individual women’s competition, the first for the country in badminton and in the next edition at Rio 2016 P.V.Sindhu won silver in Women’s singles, the second medal in badminton for India. India has won medals at the BWF World Championships as well, with Padukone winning in 1982. The doubles pairing of Gutta and Ponnappa became the first women to win the medal when they won the bronze in 2011. Sindhu won consecutive medals at 2013 and 2014 editions. Nehwal won a silver at 2015 Championships. Saina is the only gold medalist for India in BWF World Junior Championships, won in 2008, where as Sindhu and Lakshya Sen are the only gold medalists in Badminton Asia Junior Championships in their respective category for the country, won in 2012 and 2018.
Main article: Basketball in India
See also: India national basketball team and India women’s national basketball team
Members of India’s women’s national basketball team at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam
Basketball is a popular sport in India, played in almost every school, although very few people follow it professionally. India has both men’s and women’s national basketball teams. Both teams have hired head coaches who have worked extensively with NBA players and now aim to popularise the game in India. Satnam Singh Bhamara officially marks the first player from India to be selected in the NBA by being taken by the Dallas Mavericks as the 52nd pick of the 2015 NBA draft, as well as the first player to be drafted straight out of high school as a postgraduate.
The Young Cagers, as the national team is nicknamed, made one Olympic appearance in basketball, and appeared 20 times in the Asian Championship. India is currently ranked 58th in the world in basketball. The Indian national team had its best result at the 1975 Asian Championship, when the team finished ahead of teams including the Philippines, one of Asia’s basketball strongholds. Internationally, one of the most recognised Indian basketball players has been Sozhasingarayer Robinson. Affiliated into the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) since 1936, India has one of Asia’s longest basketball traditions.
India’s women had their best result at the recent 2011 FIBA Asia Championship for Women when they finished sixth. The team has several internationally known players including Geethu Anna Jose, who was invited to tryouts for the WNBA in 2011.
Main article: Table tennis in India
Manika Batra at 2019 Commonwealth Table Tennis championships
Table tennis is a popular indoor recreation sport in India, which has caught on in states including West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. The Table Tennis Federation of India is the official governing body of the sport. India, which is ranked 30th in the world, has produced a single player ranked in the top 50, Sharat Kamal.
Main article: Golf in India
See also: Professional Golf Tour of India and Royal Calcutta Golf Club
Jeev Milkha Singh
Golf is a growing sport in India. It is especially popular among the wealthier classes, but has not yet caught on with others due to the expenses involved in playing.
The most successful Indian golfers are Jeev Milkha Singh and Anirban Lahiri. Singh won three titles on the European Tour, four on the Japan Golf Tour, and six on the Asian Tour. His highest world ranking was 28 March 2009. Singh has won the Asian Tour Order of Merit twice. Meanwhile, Lahiri has two European Tour wins and seven Asian Tour wins. He qualified for the 2015 Presidents Cup.
Other Indians who have won the Asian Tour Order of Merit are Jyoti Randhawa in 2002 (the first Indian to do so), and Arjun Atwal, who went on in 2010 to become the first Indian-born player to become a member of the US-based PGA Tour and win the 2010 Wyndham Championship.
In golf at the Asian Games, India’s men’s golf team won gold at the 1982 Asian Games, and silver at the 2006 Asian Games. Lakshman Singh won the individual gold at the 1982 Asian Games.
There are numerous golf courses all over India, and a Professional Golf Tour of India. The main tournament is the Hero Indian Open, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
Main article: Boxing in India
See also: Indian Boxing Federation
Four men standing. Middle of them is a young Indian male who wears a shiny orange dressing gown with blue border. His hands are behind his head. The other three men are all dressed in black and appear to be waiting around the man.
Vijender Singh (second from right) posing with his medal during the Commonwealth Games.
Boxing is a highly profiled sport in India, and although it is a regular medal-holder at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, though India has not yet produced a world champion in any weight class. In November 2007, India’s Mary Kom won the best boxer title and secured a hat-trick of titles. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Vijender Singh won a bronze medal in the middleweight division, and Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar qualified for the quarterfinals. Akhil Kumar, Jitender Kumar, A.L. Lakra, and Dinesh Kumar each won a bronze medal at the 2008 World Championship. India’s lone female boxer, M.C. Mary Kom, won the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Main article: Wrestling in India
Military World Games in Hyderabad, India.
Considered one of the most ancient and oldest sports in the world, wrestling in India has a glorious past. The sport of wrestling began its journey in India several centuries ago, during the Middle Ages. Wrestling is among the most prestigious and oldest events in the Olympic Games. It was included in the Olympics in 708 BC. In ancient times, wrestling in India was mainly used as a way to stay physically fit. It was also used as a military exercise without any weapons. Wrestling in India is also known as dangal, and it is the basic form of a wrestling tournament.
In India, wrestling is mostly known as Malla-Yuddha. Wrestling was mentioned in ancient times, found in the Sanskrit epic of Indian history, Mahabharata. One of the premier characters in Mahabharata, Bhima, was considered a great wrestler. Other great wrestlers included Jarasandha, Duryodhana, and Karna. Another Indian epic, Ramayana, also mentions wrestling in India, describing Hanuman as one of the greatest wrestlers of that time. The 13th-century Malla Purana references a group of Gujarati Brahmin wrestlers known as Jyesthimallas.
Weightlifting and powerlifting
Main article: Weightlifting in India
Karnam Malleswari won a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, making her the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal. The headquarters of the Indian Weightlifting Federation is in New Delhi. The federation is affiliated with the Indian Olympic Association (Delhi), and is also a member of the Asian Weightlifting Federation (Tehran) and International Weightlifting Federation (IWF, Budapest). The International Weightlifting Federation banned the Indian Weightlifting Federation from participating in all international competitions for one year when three Indian women weightlifters were accused of doping offences in various international competitions in a single year.
Main article: Archery in India
The game of archery has historical significance, as royals in the ancient days used to practice archery. Modern-day archery in India began in the early 1970s, before its introduction as an Olympic event in 1972, and it was formalised in 1973 when the Archery Association of India (AAI) came into existence. Since its inception, AAI has been promoting an organisation for the sport. India has been producing some world class players who are the medal hopefuls in international events of archery.
Main article: Volleyball in India
Volleyball is a popular recreation sport played all over India, both in rural and urban areas. India is ranked fifth in Asia, and 27th in the world. In the youth and junior levels, India came in second in the 2003 World Youth Championships. The Indian senior men’s team is ranked 46th in the world. A major problem for the sport is the lack of sponsors.
Main article: Handball in India
Handball is a popular sport in India, played at the local level, but hasn’t yet made an impact at the domestic level. India’s handball team began on 27 April 1989, although it hasn’t yet made an impact on the world stage, at the international level or the World Cup. The Handball Federation of India manages handball in India.
Main article: Taekwondo in India
Taekwondo in India is administered by the India Taekwondo which was constituted in July 2019 consting of a five-member ad hoc committee with Namdev Shirgaonkar as chairman with a mandate to carry out the election procedures within a stipulated time-frame. . Surendra Bhandari won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the 2002 Asian Games. Taekwondo is widely practised in India, with actors Neetu Chandra, Akshay Kumar and Isha Koppikar holding black belts.
Main article: Rugby union in India
Rugby union is a minor, but fast-growing, sport in India. Some Indian sporting clubs are beginning to embrace the game, and it is the second-most popular winter sport after football in India, which itself trails in popularity after cricket and field hockey.
Main article: Cycling in India
See also: Cycling Federation of India
The history of cycling in India dates back to 1938, and the Cycling Federation of India governs the sport. Though cycling is unknown as a professional sport in India, it is popular as a common recreational sport and a way to keep fit.
Mountain biking is becoming a popular sport in India. For the last six years, Mtb himachal, a hardcore endurance event, has been organised regularly by Himalayan Adventure Sports & Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO). A number of national and international riders participate, including Indian Army, Indian Air Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), and a number of young and energetic mountain biking individual riders from cities including Pune, Bangalore, Delhi and Chandigarh. Last year[when?], the government of Sikkim (Department of Tourism) introduced its own mountain biking race, with Southeast Asia’s biggest prize money. The second edition saw 48 professional participants from around the globe.
Road Cycling/ Touring
The Tour of Nilgiris is a major non-competitive and non-commercial touring event in South Asia that covers 1,000 kilometres in under 10 days. The Tour of Nilgiris (TfN), India’s first Day Touring Cycle Ride, was born in December 2008 with the twin objectives of promoting bicycling as an activity and spreading awareness about the bio-diversity, flora and fauna of the Nilgiris.
It soon grew into something a lot more, with an eclectic riding community in 2008 wanting to participate. The community soon assembled, made plans, chose a route and realised they would need a framework to support such a large group of people. So they recruited sponsors to mitigate costs as well as popularise the Tour and the cause of popularising cycling as a viable and sustainable means of travel. Ever since its first edition, the TfN has stayed true to the Community of Cyclists in India by being a Tour for the Community, Of the Community and By the Community. It has grown in size, stature and visibility. From 40 riders in the first edition, it has grown to 100 cyclists in 2013.
The tour has grown bigger and the routes tougher, allowing cyclists to test their endurance, enjoy the biodiversity of the Nilgiris covering the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. For the racing aficionados, there are racing segments on the tour with colour coded jerseys, recognition and prizes. TfN as it is lovingly called is pushing cycling to new frontiers with more and more interested cyclists, applying for the tour. The tour has acquired quite a name, and currently about 25% of registrations are selected for the tour by the organisers.
Main article: Equestrian sport in India
India has a wide following in various equestrian sports, including show jumping, eventing, dressage, endurance riding and tent pegging. Supported by the Equestrian Federation of India, eventing is the most popular of the five, with teams representing the country at most Asian Games, winning a bronze medal in the 2002 and 2006 games. India has been represented at the Olympics twice, by Wing Commander I.J. Lamba, and Imtiaz Anees.
Main article: Kayaking in India
Flat water and sea kayaking
Indian flat water kayakers are an emerging powerhouse on the Asian circuit. Outside of professional flat water kayaking, there is very limited recreational kayaking. The potential to generate interest in flat water kayaking is held by leisure resorts located near the sea or other water bodies. Indian tourists tend to consider kayaking a one-time activity, rather than a sport to be pursued.
Enthusiasts of whitewater kayaking are concentrated in the north towards the Himalayas, with some in the south in Bangalore in Karnataka. Most of these enthusiasts are or were whitewater raft guides who took to the sport of whitewater kayaking. Some of the prominent whitewater kayakers include Abhinav Kala, Shalabh Gahlaut, and John Pollard. Many of them have notched first descents (similar to climbing ascents) on rivers in India and Nepal.
“Bangalore Kayakers” or “Southern River Runners” are India’s first amateur group of white water kayakers. Based out of Bangalore, they explore rivers around Western Ghats. The lure for most of these participants is adventure. Whitewater kayaking in India allows for exploration of places where, literally, no human has been before.
Gear availability is a problem that plagues kayakers. While the global designs for whitewater boats and paddles change annually, Indian kayakers have to pay high fees if they want to import any kind of gear, or they have to buy used gear in Nepal. More often than not, one will see Indian kayaking guides riding down the river in a Perception Amp, Piroutte or Dancer designs, while the kayakers from abroad ride the river in their new design, planing hull, centred-volume kayaks from Riot, Pyranha, or Wave Sport.
Kayaking India groups on Facebook are good resources for kayakers in India.
Athletics: Track, Field and Road
Main article: Athletics in India
Lalita Babar, an Indian long-distance runner, was honoured with Arjuna Award in 2016.
India is unfortunately not affluent in the field of athletics and track events. There are very few athletes who won any medal in any global or major events. But the scenario is changing in the 20th century, when people started taking interest in athletics and facility are providing to improve the meager situation of athletics. Anju Bobby George made history when she won the bronze medal in Women’s long jump at the 2003 World Championships in Athletics in Paris. With this achievement, she became the first Indian athlete ever to win a medal in a World Championships in Athletics jumping 6.70 m. Till 2010 Milkha Singh was the only athlete to win an individual gold medal at a Commonwealth Games but at 2010 Commonwealth Games, Krishna Punia created history by winning the Women’s discus throw gold medal for India after 52 years and as first woman to win a gold in athletics at Commonwealth Games. In the same edition of Commonwealth games Manjeet Kaur, Sini Jose, Ashwini Akkunji & Mandeep Kaur won the Women’s 4 × 400 m (Relay) gold medal. At 2014 Commonwealth Games Vikas Gowda won the Men’s Discus Throw gold medal.
Hima Das is only Indian track athlete to win a medal at any IAAF global event. She won the gold medal in Women’s 400 metres at 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships at Tampere, Finland, on 12 July 2018, clocking a time of 51.46 seconds. She is second gold medalist in athletics at IAAF World U20 Championships after Neeraj Chopra who won Men’s javelin throw gold at 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships by setting world junior record with a throw of 86.48 m. Later Neeraj went on to win the Men’s javelin throw gold at 2018 Commonwealth Games. Performances at Olympics Games are not satisfactory, till now no Indian athlete won any medal at the Olympics. At 2016 Summer Olympics Lalita Babar becomes the first Indian athlete since 1984 to reach Olympics finale in the event of Women’s 3000 metres steeplechase, before her, P.T. Usha reach the finale of Women’s 400 metres hurdles at 1984 Summer Olympics.
P.T. Usha won multiple gold medals in different editions of Asian Games and Asian Athletics Championships. Lavy Pinto was the first Indian to win a gold medal in the Asian Games which he won in the first Asian Games held at New Delhi in 1951 in 100 and 200-meter categories. Christine Brown, Stephie D’Souza, Violet Peters, Mary D’Souza gave India its first women’s athletics gold medal when they won 4 × 100 m relay in 1954 Asian Games but current Asian record is held by Priyanka Pawar, Tintu Luka, Mandeep Kaur, Machettira Raju Poovamma when they won Women’s 4 × 400 metres relay at 2014 Asian Games clocking 3:28:68. Kamaljeet Sandhu was the first Indian female athlete to win individual gold medal at any Asian games by winning 400m track event at 1970 Asian Games. Sunita Rani holds the current Asian record in 1500 m track event winning at Busan 2002 Asian Games clocking 4:06:03.
Madhurjya Borah, an Indian triathlete holds silver medal at South Asian Triathlon Championship.
Anu Vaidyanathan, an Indian triathlete, is the first Asian to compete in Ultraman.
In May 2016, Arunaabh Shah from Delhi became the first Indian male and the youngest Indian to finish Ultraman, at Ultraman Australia.
Main article: Gymnastics in India
Gymnastics came of age in India, when at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Ashish Kumar won the first-ever medal in gymnastics for India, a bronze. Ashish also won a silver medal in the Men’s vault at 2010 Commonwealth Games.
It was Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, that Dipa Karmakar from Tripura won the bronze medal in the Women’s vault finale. Her second vault, the most difficult vault with a D-score of 7, the Produnova vault, named after famous Yelena Produnova of Russia, also known as the vault of death due to its difficulty and likelihood of injury, which she executed with a score of 15.1 (D-7, Ex- 8.1) which contributed to her winning the bronze medal. With this attempt she became fifth gymnast to ever execute the Produnova just after legendary gymnast Oksana Chusovitina who executed multiples times. In October 2015, Karmakar became the first Indian gymnast to qualify for a final stage at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Later in 2016 when she qualified for Rio Olympics, she became first Indian gymnast to do so and also hours after her qualification at 2016 Gymnastics Olympic Test Event she clinched gold medal in Women’s vault event stunning Oksana Chusovitina with her prudunova again who came second to her. On 6 July 2016, FIG honored Dipa by naming her World Class Gymnast. At Rio Olympics she achieved 4th place in vaults. After a long break due to injury when she ran for vaults and landed with a gold at World Challenge Cup series.
Billiards and snooker
Main article: Billiards in India
India has been a force in world billiards competitions. Champions including Wilson Jones, Michael Ferreira, Geet Sethi and now the domination of Pankaj Advani have underlined the powerhouse status of the country. The Snooker Federation of India, the apex body, plays a proactive role in popularising the game. Many efforts have been made by the Billiards and Snooker Federation of India in the recent past to enhance the popularity of the game in the country. Several training camps for developing budding talent and providing them with regional and state sponsorship have been organised by the Billiards and Snooker Federation in various parts of the country.
Viswanathan Anand, a former World Chess Champion playing Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Paris.
Main article: Chess in India
See also: All India Chess Federation, All India Chess Federation for the Blind, and Chess Players Association of India
Chess has risen in popularity in India over the last few decades, primarily due to its star player Viswanathan Anand. He is a multiple World Champion. The game originated from India as a successor to Chaturanga or Shatranj. The All India Chess Federation is the governing body for chess in India.
Main article: Cricket in India
See also: Board of Control for Cricket in India, India national cricket team, and India national women’s cricket team
In a career of twenty four-year span, Sachin Tendulkar has created many batting records, and is often regarded as one of the most successful cricketers of all time.
Cricket has a long history in India, having been introduced in the country during the British rule. It is by far the most popular sport in India. Cricket is played on local, national, and international levels, and enjoys consistent support from people in most parts of India. Its development has been closely tied in with the history of the country, mirroring many of the political and cultural developments around issues such as caste, gender, religion, and nationality. The Indian national cricket team played its first official match (a Test) in 1932 against England, and the team’s performance since then has generally been mixed, sometimes enjoying stupendous success and sometimes suffering outright failure. The highest profile rival of the Indian cricket team is the Pakistani cricket team, though, in recent times, it has gained other rivals, including Australia, South Africa and England.
Although cricket is the most popular sport in India, it is not the nation’s official national sport as India does not have a national sport. The governing body for cricket in India, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), was formed in December 1928 and is based in Mumbai. Today, BCCI is the richest sporting body in the world.
India has hosted or co-hosted many major international cricket tournaments, including the 1987 Cricket World Cup (co-hosted with Pakistan), the 1996 Cricket World Cup (co-hosted with Pakistan and Sri Lanka), the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy and the 2011 Cricket World Cup (co-hosted with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh). The India national cricket team has won major tournaments, including the 1983 Cricket World Cup in England, the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa, the 2011 Cricket World Cup (which they won by beating Sri Lanka in the final at home), and the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, and has shared the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka. It had also held the position of the top team in Tests.The domestic competitions include the Ranji Trophy, the Duleep Trophy, the Deodhar Trophy, the Irani Trophy, and the Challenger Series, all of which are not widely followed, despite cricket’s popularity in the country. This parallels the global situation in cricket, where the international game is more widely followed than the domestic game in all major cricketing countries. In addition, the BCCI conducts the Indian Premier League, a domestic franchise-based Twenty20 competition, during March–April every year and is extremely popular.
Main article: Kabaddi in India
See also: Pro Kabaddi League
Kabaddi is one of the most popular sports in India.
Kabaddi is a popular national sport and the second most popular sport in India, played mainly among people in villages. It is regarded as a team-contact sport and as a recreational form of combat training.
Two teams occupy opposite halves of a small field and take turns sending a raider into the other half to win points by tagging and wrestling members of the opposing team. The raider then attempts to return to his own half while holding his breath and chanting “kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi” during the whole raid.
India has won gold in all the Asian Games in kabaddi excepting 2018 Asian Games where they got bronze. The four forms of kabaddi recognised by the Kabaddi Federation in India are Amar, Sanjeevni, Gaminee and Punjabi rules Kabaddi. India won the Kabaddi World Championship in 2007, beating Iran 29–19.
Main article: Motorsport in India
See also: Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India
Motorsport is a popular spectator sport in India, although there are relatively few competitors compared to other sports, due to the high costs of competing. Coimbatore is often referred to as the “Motor sports Capital of India” and the “Backyard of Indian Motorsports”. S. Karivardhan, spearheaded motor racing, making Coimbatore the country’s motor racing hub when he designed and built entry level race cars. Before Buddh International Circuit was constructed, the country’s only two permanent race ways were the Kari Motor Speedway, Coimbatore and Madras Motor Racing Track, Chennai. MRF built the first Formula 3 car in 1997. MRF in collaboration with Maruti established the Formula Maruti racing, a single-seater, open-wheel class motorsport racing event for race cars made in India. MRF Challenge is a Formula 2000 open-wheel motorsport formula based series organised by Madras Motor Sports Club in association with MRF. Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok are the only drivers from to represent India in Formula 1.
Force India drivers at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix.
On 1 February 2005, Narain Karthikeyan became India’s first Formula One racing driver. In March 2007, he also became the first-ever Indian-born driver to compete in a NASCAR Series. He debuted in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in the Kroger 250. Force India F1 is a Formula One motor racing team. The team was formed in October 2007, when a consortium led by Indian businessmen Vijay Mallya and Michiel Mol bought the Spyker F1 team for €88 million. After competing in 29 races without a point, Force India won their first Formula One World Championship points and podium place when Giancarlo Fisichella finished second in the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. New Delhi hosted the Indian Grand Prix in 2011 at Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, 50 km from New Delhi. Karun Chandhok was the test driver for Team Lotus & Narain Karthikeyan raced for HRT during the first half of the 2011 Formula One season. Karun Chandhok participated in Friday’s[when?] practice session and Karthikeyan (stepping in for Daniel Ricciardo) raced at the 2011 Indian Grand Prix; it was the first time two Indian drivers associated with the same Formula One Grand Prix directly.
Team MRF’s Gaurav Gill the first Indian rally driver to win FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in 2013.
In March 2004 Mumbai hosted the first ever F1H2O (Formula 1 Powerboat) Grand Prix of India  From November 16 to 18 2018 Amaravati hosted the second F1H2O World championship Grand Prix of India. The event brought wide media attention especially after one of the team took the color and the name of Andhra Pradesh Capital, making it the first Indian branded team in the history of F1H2O. Team Amaravati led by Swedish drivers Jonas Anderson and Eric Edin. During Grand Prix of France held in Evian-les-Bains Jonas Anderson took the first place and Indian flag waved on the highest step of the podium. Since then many states are considering hosting Formula One Powerboat event considering the fact that no stadium is required to be built and the event is usually free for spectators.
Main article: Korfball in India
Korfball, a mixed-gender ball sport, with similarities to netball and basketball, is played by over 50 countries in the world. It is not as popular in India as other sports, but is still played by a significant number of people. India came in third place twice (2002 and 2006) in the Asia-Oceania Korfball Championships.
Main article: Karate in India
Karate in India is administered by the Karate Association of India whose president is Likha Tara and General Secretary Ambedkar Gupta of KAI. India has produced many accomplished karatekas like Aniket Gupta, Deepika Dhiman, Sunil Rathee, Supriya Jatav and Gaurva Sindhiya. The 2015 Commonwealth Karate Games were held in Delhi, India.
Main article: Indian Association of Kickboxing Organisations
Members of India’s national Kickboxing team at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam
Kickboxing in India is promoted and governed by the Indian Association of Kickboxing Organisations which was founded by Er. S.S. Harichandan. Ratnadiptee Shimpi won a silver medal and Pankaj Mahanta, Manoj Kumar, Mohammad Amir Khan and Salam Lemba Meitei won four bronze medals in Kickboxing at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games. Indian Team under Indian Olympic Association participated in 2009 Asian Martial Arts Games where Laxmi Tyagi won a gold medal and three others bagged bronze medals [circular reference].
Main article: Floorball in India
Floorball, an indoor team sport, a type of floor hockey, is gaining popularity in India. The Floorball Federation of India was started in 2001 and, since then, it has expanded rapidly. There have been four national floorball championships held, with Uttar Pradesh becoming the champions. Women’s floorball has also expanded, and Mumbai is the first national floorball champion of India. India is a provisional member of the International Floorball Federation. India has participated in many international friendlies and steps are being taken to make India an ordinary member of floorball.
Main article: Netball in India
Netball, derived from early versions of basketball, is a popular sport in India, especially among Indian women. India’s national team is ranked 25th in the world and has played only a few matches. The team has failed to qualify for any of the World Netball Championships. They played 18 matches in total.In the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, netball was included as a medal sport. However, the Indian team failed to win a medal.
Main article: Throwball in India
Throwball, a non-contact competitive ball sport played across a net between two teams of nine players on a rectangular court, is gaining popularity in India. Indian authorities of the game were instrumental in organising an Asian-level and, later, a world-level association for the sport. Throwball is played in gym class, colleges, and clubs throughout Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. The sport is also slowly gaining in popularity in other countries including France, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the United Kingdom. India’s junior throwball team visited Sri Lanka in 1982. Vijay Dahiya from Haryana was captain of the team. The Indian team won the test series.
Lacrosse is a relatively new sport in India, introduced in 2006. The governing body for lacrosse in India is the Indian National Lacrosse Federation. It is now being played by schools in Shillong, Meghalaya, while being mostly unknown in the rest of the country.
Introduced in 2011 by various American football figures, including Mike Ditka and Ron Jaworski, the Elite Football League of India was India’s first professional American football league. Their first league play was to commence in 2012, and feature teams from eight different Indian cities.
Main article: Polo in India
Jaqueline Kennedy posing for a photograph during an annual Polo match in Rajasthan, known as the Sirmoor Cup.
India is considered the cradle of modern polo. Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in the 15th century, firmly established its popularity. The period between the decline of the Mughal dynasty and the upsurgence of the British Imperial rule, polo almost vanished from mainland India. Fortunately, the game survived in a few remote mountainous enclaves of the subcontinent, notably Gilgit, Chitral, Ladakh, and Manipur.
In India, the popularity of polo has waned and risen many times. However, it has never lost its regal status. In the last few decades, the emergence of privately owned teams has ensured a renaissance in Indian polo. Today, polo is not just restricted to the royalty and the Indian Army.
Baseball and softball
Main articles: Baseball in India and Softball in India
Baseball has recently begun to show up in India. Softball is played in school and at the university level. Two Indian pitchers were selected by the “Million Dollar Arm” competition to play in the United States. A talent hunt-style competition conducted by Major League Baseball to find baseball talent in India found the teenagers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who were taken to the US and received professional coaching. These two players were selected to play for Pittsburgh Pirates minor league organisations. Rinku Singh played for the Canberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League for the competition’s inaugural 2010–11 season.
See also: Climbing locations in India
Rock climbing has been around in India for a long time. Presumably, the mountaineers headed for Himalayan ascents had to train somewhere, and would have imparted some of the initial technical climbing culture. Documented evidence of rock climbing is associated with bouldering and climbing around Bangalore’s famous Ramanagara crags and Turahalli boulders, around Western Ghats closer to Mumbai and Pune. The Deccan Plateau and south of the Vindhya Range are considered the prime locations for rock climbing in India. There is an established climbing tradition associated with Mumbai, Pune, and Bangalore. For example, Hampi is considered the bouldering capital of India. Climbers congregate here during New Year’s Eve and climb through the weeks preceding and after. Badami is popular for its free and sport routes (numbering over 200).
Main article: Sepak takraw in India
Sepak takraw ball
Sepak takraw, though not very well known in India, was a demonstration sport at the Delhi Asian Games in 1982.The Sepak Takraw Federation, with its headquarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra, was founded on 10 September 1982. It is recognised by the Indian Olympic Association and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports since 2000. So far, the federation has conducted 14 senior, seven junior, and six sub-junior national championships in different cities, and is conducting Federation Cup Tournaments and zonal National Championships.
The game is very popular in the northeastern state of Manipur, and some of the best players came from there. In the 22nd King’s Cup International Sepak Takraw Tournament held in Bangkok, the India men’s team lost in the semi-finals and claimed bronze in the team event. In the doubles event, the women’s team lost in the semi-finals, but earned bronze medals.
On 21 August 2018, at the 2018 Asian Games, the national men’s team won a bronze after losing 2–0 to Thailand. It was Indian’s first medal in Sepak takraw in Asian games.
Main article: Winter sports in India
Winter sports are common in India in the Himalayan areas. Skiing tournaments take place every winter in Gulmarg, and Manali. Winter sports are generally more common in the northern states and territories of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh. Skiing, snow rugby, snow cycling, and snow football are some of the common winter sports played in India. Skiing is more popular, although India has taken part in luge in Winter Olympics since 1998. Shiva Keshavan is the only Indian to have won medals in international meets in winter sports (Asian Gold 2011, Asian Silver 2009, Asian Bronze 2008, Asian Silver (doubles) 2005, Asian Bronze (singles) 2005), and to have participated in four Olympic Games. He is the Asian speed record holder at 134.4 km/h, making him the fastest man in Asia on ice. Luge is practised in a big way by the mountain residents in an improvised form called “reri”.
Main article: Bandy in India
India has a national bandy team. The Bandy Federation of India governs bandy in India. Its headquarters are in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. Bandy, a team winter sport played on ice, in which skaters use sticks to direct a ball into the opposing team’s goal, is generally played in northern India, where there is snow and ice. India is one of seven countries in Asia and out of a total of 28 to be a member of Federation of International Bandy. BFI planned to send a team to the 2011 Asian Winter Games in Astana-Almaty, but ultimately did not.
Main article: Ice hockey in India
Ice hockey is played in the colder parts of India, including Kashmir, Ladakh, and parts of Himachal Pradesh.
Traditional and regional sports
Seval sandai, traditional cock fight
Seval Sandai or Seval Porr (cockfighting) is a popular rural sport. Three or four-inch blades are attached to the cocks’ feet and the winner is decided after three or four rounds of no-holds-barred fighting. The sport involves major gambling in recent times.
Lagoori is played by children of all ages throughout India. In this there are usually 12 players, 6 in each time. A ball and 9 flat rocks are need to play this game. The rocks are pilled in the center on top of each other from the largest to the smallest flat rock. Then the ball is used to hit the pile by each team separately. The team which hits the pile first and manages topple the pile of rocks gets the chance to hold the ball and hit the player of opposite team with that ball. The task of the opposite team is to re-arrange the pile of rock without getting hit by the ball. Whichever players get hit by the ball is out and the task is taken further by remaining player of his team. If the team with the ball succeeds to out all the players before they could re-arrange the pile they win. If the team manages to re-arrange the pile then the team with the ball loses.
Jallikattu, taming the bull
Rekla, bullock cart race
Jallikattu is a popular bull-taming sport practiced particularly during Pongal festival. Jallikattu was a popular sport since the Tamil classical period. Rekla race is an associated sport which is a form of bullock cart racing. In May 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned both the sports citing animal welfare issues.
Young boys playing Gilli-danda, a traditional Indian sport.
Gilli-danda or Karra billa is a sport played by using one small stick (gilli) and a large stick (danda) like cricket, with the ball replaced by gilli. It is still played in villages of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Gujarat in India only as a recreational sport among boys.
Kancha is played by using marbles. Marbles are glass balls which are very popular among children. It is popular in small Indian cities and villages, among small boys only as a gully sport. It is rarely played by girls. The participant has to hit the marble kept in a circle. If he hits the target properly, he wins. The winner gets the kancha of the other participant boys.
Kite-flying is pursued by many people in India, in cities as well as villages. The festival of Makar Sankranti features kite-flying competitions. It is festival which is a passion among Indians.
Indian martial arts
See also: Indian martial arts
India has many traditional regional forms of martial arts such as lathi khela, sqay, kalari, kushti, thang-ta and silambam.
Kho kho is a tag sport played by teams of twelve players who try to avoid being touched by members of the opposing team, only nine players of the team enter the field. It is one of the two most popular traditional tag games played in schools, the other being kabaddi.
Uriyadi involves smashing a small earthen pot with a long stick, usually with a cloth wrapped around the eyes to prevent the participants from seeing the pot. Other minor sports include Ilavatta kal where huge spherical rocks are lifted, Gilli-danda played with two pieces of sticks, Nondi played by folding one leg and hopping squares. Indoor games include Pallanguzhi involving beads, Bambaram involving the spinning of a top, Dhayakattai which is a modified dice game, Aadu puli attam, Nungu vandi and Seechangal. Other regional sports and games include air sports, atya patya, langdi, surr, sitolia bridge, carrom, cycle polo, fencing, judo, Gatka, kho-kho, mallakhamb, roller skating, rowing, shooting ball, soft tennis, squash, swimming, ten-pin bowling, tennikoit, tug of war, yachting, and yoga and have dedicated followers and their own national sports federations. Seasonal sports such as “Dahi Handi” also have a following.
Sports Broadcasting in India
Local sporting events broadcasting is in a stagnant stage in India due to the mandatory sharing of sporting events of live feed and rights made by ordnance in favour of Prasar Bharathi. Thus, all sports broadcasters playout from outside the country, which only allows the capability to produce international events and fades the production, distribution, invention of the new local field of sporting events.