While cricket undeniably dominates the sports landscape in India, it is by no means the only game in town. A nation with a rich history and diverse culture, India has a range of sports that are popular, both in terms of participation and viewership. Let’s take a dive into some of the most beloved sports in India, beyond the realm of cricket.
- Field Hockey
Overview: Once the golden sport of India, field hockey holds a special place in the hearts of many Indians. The country has won multiple Olympic gold medals in this sport, especially during the mid-20th century.Notable Events: Hockey India League (HIL) and various national championships.Achievements: India boasts 8 Olympic gold medals in men’s field hockey, making it one of the most successful nations in the sport.
- Football (Soccer)
Overview: Football has been growing exponentially in popularity in India over the last decade, especially with the advent of the Indian Super League (ISL). Cities like Kolkata have a rich footballing heritage with clubs like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal having massive fan followings.Notable Events: Indian Super League (ISL), I-League, and the Durand Cup.Achievements: While the national team is yet to make a significant mark on the global stage, the domestic leagues continue to attract international talent, raising the profile of the sport in the country.
Overview: With Indian shuttlers consistently performing well on the international stage, badminton’s popularity has surged. Players like P.V. Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth have become household names.Notable Events: Syed Modi International, India Open, and various national championships.Achievements: P.V. Sindhu’s silver medal at the Rio Olympics and her World Championships gold have been landmark moments for Indian badminton.
Overview: A traditional Indian sport, kabaddi has seen a revival in interest, especially with the introduction of the Pro Kabaddi League. It’s a contact team sport, played between two teams of seven players each.Notable Events: Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) and the Kabaddi World Cup.Achievements: India has been dominant in the Kabaddi World Cup, having won all editions of the men’s tournament so far.
Overview: Tennis, while not as mainstream as some other sports, has a dedicated following. Players like Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, and Sania Mirza have made significant contributions on the international circuit.Notable Events: Chennai Open (ATP event) and various national championships.Achievements: Multiple Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles categories by Indian players.
Overview: Wrestling, or ‘kushti’ as it’s traditionally known, has a deep-rooted history in India. The country has produced several world-class wrestlers in recent years.Notable Events: National championships and traditional dangal events.Achievements: Olympic medals by Sushil Kumar, Sakshi Malik, and Bajrang Punia among others.
Overview: Boxing has gained prominence in India, especially after some notable performances in the Olympics and World Championships.Notable Events: Various national championships.Achievements: Mary Kom’s multiple World Championships golds and her Olympic bronze are highlights for Indian boxing.
While cricket may be the juggernaut, it’s evident that India has a diverse sporting culture. The rise of professional leagues in sports like football, kabaddi, and badminton, coupled with international achievements in disciplines like wrestling and boxing, ensures that India’s sporting palette remains rich and varied.