It’s an undoubted fact that soccer – known in many countries as football – is the most popular sport on the planet, with an estimated four billion fans addicted to the so-called beautiful game. Despite this, cricket still commands a huge following itself and is second only in popularity to soccer across the globe.
That’s helped by the fact that in some nations, cricket actually outranks soccer in terms of popularity. Although that might not be true in the land of its conception (England), it certainly is in many of the places that the English colonised at the height of the British Empire. Here are a handful for your information.
Home to over one billion people, the Indian supporters of cricket go some way to explaining why the sport enjoys such huge popularity in a global sense. Cricket is far more than a pastime or athletic discipline here; it’s a veritable way of life. Even seemingly insignificant contests bring thousands of followers to a standstill for hours (or even days, depending on the format) at a time. Meanwhile, the inception of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has proven to be one of the most successful money-spinning ventures in the history of modern sport.
Another giant country of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan is home to almost 230 million people – a significant proportion of whom hold cricket dear to their heart. Like India, Pakistan’s infatuation with the sport began during the British occupation of their territories, but the love affair has endured far beyond that. Nowadays, Pakistan edges out other popular activities such as field hockey, polo and soccer and the national team is one of the most successful on the planet, while cricket betting in Pakistan has also become widespread in recent years.
Although it has a relatively small population in comparison to the two countries mentioned previously (just over 25 million), Australians have always taken their sports seriously. It’s no surprise, then, that they excel in a wide variety of different disciplines, from swimming and tennis to rugby and Aussie rules football. Cricket, however, trumps all others and the nation is annually engaged in a one-on-one, winner-takes-all-the-glory competition with England known as the Ashes. Australia have the edge, too, winning 33 titles to England’s 32.
Guyana is located in another region colonised by the British – the West Indies. They were initially known as Demerara, competing in the first national cricket match in the region against Barbados in 1865. They stuck with the name until the end of the century, when they adopted the moniker of British Guiana, before finally switching to their present name in the 1960s. Despite having a diminutive population of just one million people, the nation has stilled hosted international tests witnessed by over 15,000 spectators in an arena built specifically for the Cricket World Cup.
Soccer might still be top dog when it comes to global sports – but the widespread popularity of cricket, particularly in former British colonies, makes it a worthy runner-up.