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The Most Popular Sports in India

People have been enjoying sports since the dawn of civilisation, with individual societies creating their own favourite games to play. Nowadays, sports are global, with talented nations being given a chance to rise to the top of world rankings. Perhaps not historically associated with a diverse range of sports, India has cultivated a rampant fan base across some of the biggest sports in the world as well as more local favourites.
With a population in excess of 1.3 billion, if a sport gets popular in India, you can bet that it’ll boast a following of millions. On its own, the country has the power to pump billions into a sport, be it through viewership, merchandising, sponsorship, or ticket sales: the sport just needs to appeal to the Indian crowd.
The standings of India’s most popular sports have shifted in recent years, with the money being pumped into new leagues starting to bear fruit.

1. Cricket

It’s well-known that India is very much a cricket-mad country. Even though hockey was long recognised as the national sport, the line is that now there isn’t a national sport. Although the crowds that cricket generates would have just about everyone believing that the sport is prized by all Indians. This is likely because whether it be T20I, ODI, or test cricket, India competes at the highest level, often being among the favourites to win each international tournament. Domestically, India has developed what is globally recognised as the premier competition of short-form cricket.

This belief in Indian teams is reflected in third-party offerings, including all established betting sites. Now, the best sports betting sites in India, as rated and reviewed by Asia Bet, offer a range of future and in-play cricket markets. Cricket is so popular in the country that any betting site that wants to appeal to the audience has to offer comprehensive betting markets on the sport. They also provide a variety of welcome bonuses to attract new customers.

The Indian Premier League has only just completed its 13th campaign, and yet, it already attracts the best players in the world, while continuing to grow each year. Back in 2015, the IPL season was already contributing around £15 million to India’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The 2020 edition showcased further growth, with its TV viewership seeing a 23 percent raise to a colossal 31.57 million people. Such is the popularity of cricket in India.

2. Kabaddi

Although the sport does feature throughout the ancient history of India, it wasn’t until recently that kabaddi started to grow as a truly mainstream sport in the country. Interest was on the rise in the late 20th Century, but following the 2006 Asian Games, kabaddi shot up in popularity, leading to the formation of a professional league.

In 2014, the Pro Kabaddi League entered the fray, growing by close to 33 percent in interest since its inception. The audience sees the league as being modern, innovative, and very entertaining, with the smart presentation and widespread coverage of the PKL making it very marketable. In fact, the popularity of kabaddi amounted to 1.6 billion impressions during its fifth season.

3. Football

Football is, by a very long way, the most popular sport in the world. While India’s national team, the Blue Tigers, haven’t made it to the FIFA World Cup – despite qualifying in 1950 – interest in the biggest competition of the sport has remained consistently high.

Since India hosted the 2017 under-17 World Cup, interest in the sport across the board has shot up. In fact, India’s U17 World Cup was named the most successful ever, boasting a record attendance of over 1.3 million. Since then, the sport’s infrastructure and a desire to host more major footballing events have continued to grow.

Helping to build a love of the beautiful game is the Indian Super League. With over 150 million followers, the ISL is ahead of a fellow major developing market and league, the MLS, as well as Ligue 1 and Liga MX among Indian popularity. As would be expected, however, it trails the colossal competition of Europe in its following, such as the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, and the Bundesliga.

The 2013-established division of football continues to increase its appeal to the nation. indeed, due to it recently being recognised as a top-tier league, the regular season winners, FC Goa, will qualify for the AFC Champions League group stage instead of needing to qualify.

It seems incredibly unlikely that cricket would ever be unseated as the most popular sport in India. That said, the rapid growth in interest for kabaddi and football has undoubtedly upset the perceived order of the most popular sports in India.

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