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India, a land of rich culture and diverse landscape, boasts a variety of popular sports that connect people across the nation.

Cricket reigns supreme, but there’s more to India’s sports scene.

Explore our list of the 11 most popular sports captivating Indian hearts and minds.

Most Popular Sports in India:

  1. Cricket
  2. Field Hockey
  3. Badminton
  4. Kabaddi
  5. Soccer
  6. Tennis
  7. Chess
  8. Table Tennis
  9. Wrestling
  10. Shooting
  11. Athletics

#1 Cricket

Cricket
  • πŸ“… (Estimated) Year of Popularity Surge in India: 1980s
  • 🌟 Most Famous Player from India: Sachin Tendulkar (Indian)
  • 🌍 Estimated Number of Players in India: 20 Million

Cricket is more than just a sport in India; it’s a religion. The nation comes to a standstill when the Indian cricket team is in action, especially during high-stakes encounters like the India-Pakistan matches.

The Indian Premier League (IPL), the most popular and cash-rich cricket league in the world, has won the hearts of millions since its inception in 2008. Sachin Tendulkar, affectionately known as the ‘God of Cricket,’ is the epitome of cricketing greatness in India, and his records remain unmatched.

Cricket in India thrives on its heroes, defining moments, and an undying love for the game.

#2 Field Hockey

Field Hockey
  • πŸ“… (Estimated) Year of Introduction in India: Late 1800s
  • 🌟 Most Famous Player from India: Dhyan Chand (Indian)
  • 🌍 Estimated Number of Players in India: 2 Million

Field hockey, the country’s national sport, holds historical significance in India. The sport boasts of glorious moments in India’s sporting history, including the country’s Olympic dominance from the 1920s to 1950s.

The Indian Hockey League has been the premier domestic tournament since 2013. Dhyan Chand, a legendary player known for his superlative ball control, stands tall in the Indian hockey fraternity.

His extraordinary skill won India three Olympic gold medals, earned him the nickname, “The Wizard.” Despite cricket’s popularity, field hockey remains an integral part of India’s sports fabric, rooted in historical achievements.

#3 Badminton

Badminton
  • πŸ“… (Estimated) Year of Introduction in India: Early 1900s
  • 🌟 Most Famous Player from India: Saina Nehwal (Indian)
  • 🌍 Estimated Number of Players in India: 5 Million

Badminton has emerged as one of the most popular sports in India, gaining momentum in recent years. The fast pace and intensity of the game have led to its widespread appeal across the country.

The Premier Badminton League, launched in 2011, has become a popular domestic tournament attracting international stars. Saina Nehwal, the first Indian badminton player to win an Olympic medal, has inspired numerous youngsters to take up the sport.

With the rise of other prominent players like P.V. Sindhu and K. Srikanth, badminton continues to soar in India’s sports landscape.

#4 Kabaddi

  • πŸ“… (Estimated) Year of Introduction in India: Ancient Times
  • 🌟 Most Famous Player from India: Anup Kumar (Indian)
  • 🌍 Estimated Number of Players in India: 3 Million

Kabaddi, an indigenous Indian sport, has gained significant popularity in recent years, thanks to the introduction of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) in 2014. A blend of strength, agility, and strategy, kabaddi has a rich cultural history that dates back to ancient India.

Anup Kumar, the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup-winning captain, remains a prominent figure in the sport. With the PKL’s growing viewership and success, the sport now enjoys a mainstream presence, attracting sponsors and a dedicated fan base.

Kabaddi’s cultural significance and modern adaptation have ensured its place in India’s vibrant sports culture.

#5 Soccer

soccer
  • πŸ“… (Estimated) Year of Introduction in India: Late 1800s
  • 🌟 Most Famous Player from India: Sunil Chhetri (Indian)
  • 🌍 Estimated Number of Players in India: 4 Million

Though cricket dominates the country, soccer has a sizeable fan base in India. The sport is deeply rooted in the culture of certain regions like West Bengal, Goa, and Kerala.

The Indian Super League (ISL), launched in 2013, has grown in popularity, featuring domestic and international players. National team captain Sunil Chhetri remains India’s most celebrated soccer player, holding numerous records.

Soccer enthusiasts in India also follow European leagues, especially the English Premier League. With rising talent and investment in infrastructure, the beautiful game continues to develop in India’s diverse sports ecosystem.

#6 Tennis

  • πŸ“… (Estimated) Year of Introduction in India: Early 1900s
  • 🌟 Most Famous Player from India: Leander Paes (Indian)
  • 🌍 Estimated Number of Players in India: 1 Million

Tennis in India enjoys significant popularity, witnessing steady growth over the years. India has produced remarkable players in both singles and doubles events. Among them, Leander Paes has etched his name in history with multiple Grand Slam titles.

Tournaments like the Chennai Open and the Maharashtra Open bring international tennis stars to Indian courts. Indian fans also closely follow global tournaments like Wimbledon and the US Open. With young talents like Sumit Nagal emerging, Indian tennis is set for an exciting future.

#7 Chess

Chess
  • πŸ“… (Estimated) Year of Popularity Surge in India: 1990s
  • 🌟 Most Famous Player from India: Viswanathan Anand (Indian)
  • 🌍 Estimated Number of Players in India: 3 Million

Chess has deep historical roots in India, as it originated from the ancient game of chaturanga. India has produced several grandmasters, with Viswanathan Anand leading the way as a five-time World Chess Champion.

Chess in India has gained popularity due to remarkable performances on global platforms, including the Chess Olympiad. National tournaments and competitions like the National Premier Chess Championship provide a launchpad for budding players.

The widespread availability of online chess platforms has also spurred interest in the game across the country.

#8 Table Tennis

Table Tennis
  • πŸ“… (Estimated) Year of Introduction in India: 1930s
  • 🌟 Most Famous Player from India: Sharath Kamal (Indian)
  • 🌍 Estimated Number of Players in India: 1 Million

Table tennis is a popular sport in India, particularly at the school and college levels. The quick pace and deceptive spins make it an exciting game to watch and play. The Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) league, launched in 2017, has brought international exposure to the sport in India.

Sharath Kamal, a multiple-time national champion and Asian Games gold medalist, has inspired many youngsters to take up table tennis. With improved facilities and coaching, India’s talent pool is only set to expand, ensuring a steady rise in the sport’s popularity.

#9 Wrestling

Wrestling
  • 🌟Most Famous Wrestler from India: Sushil Kumar (Indian)
  • 🌍Estimated Number of Wrestlers in India: 500,000

Wrestling in India has a rich historical and cultural background, dating back to ancient times. The sport is traditionally practiced in the form of kushti or Pehlwani and remains deeply rooted in India’s rural regions.

Sushil Kumar, a two-time Olympic medalist, has become a celebrated figure in Indian wrestling, inspiring younger generations. Professional wrestling leagues like the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) have provided a platform for wrestlers to showcase their talent both domestically and internationally.

Indian wrestlers’ consistent success at global events, including the Olympics and World Championships, has established wrestling as an integral part of India’s sports culture.

#10 Shooting

Trap Shooting
  • 🌟Most Famous Shooter from India: Abhinav Bindra (Indian)
  • 🌍Estimated Number of Shooters in India: 300,000

Shooting in India has seen significant growth in recent years, with Indian shooters consistently bagging medals at international competitions. Abhinav Bindra, who won India’s first individual Olympic gold in Beijing 2008, remains the sport’s most significant icon.

Domestic shooting competitions like the Kumar Surendra Singh Memorial Championships have further fueled the sport’s progress. Indian shooters like Gagan Narang and Manu Bhaker have made their mark in global events, raising India’s profile in the shooting world.

With continued investments in infrastructure and talented athletes emerging, India’s shooting scenario looks set for a promising future.

#11 Athletics

Middle Distance Running
  • 🌟Most Famous Athlete from India: Milkha Singh (Indian)
  • 🌍Estimated Number of Athletics Enthusiasts in India: 5 Million

Athletics, the foundation of various sporting events, has been an integral part of India’s sporting heritage. The country has produced numerous champions, record holders, and Asian Games medalists over the years.

Milkha Singh, nicknamed the “Flying Sikh,” remains the most celebrated Indian athlete, known for his incredible sprinting feats during the late 1950s and early 1960s. India hosts several athletics competitions, including the Federation Cup and National Open Athletics Championships.

With increased focus on talent identification, development programs, and grassroots initiatives, the athletics scene in India aims to produce future champions who will excel on the global stage.

FAQ

What is the most popular sport in India?

Cricket is the most popular sport in India, often referred to as a religion, with a massive fan base and the Indian Premier League (IPL) as its most significant tournament.

What is the national sport of India?

Field hockey is the national sport of India, known for its historic Olympic dominance and deeply rooted in the country’s sports tradition, despite cricket’s overwhelming popularity.

What are the most watched sports in India?

The most watched sports in India are cricket, followed by field hockey, badminton, kabaddi, soccer, tennis, chess, table tennis, wrestling, shooting, and athletics, each enjoying substantial fan bases throughout the nation.

I'm a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. I run stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton, took part in the German Mini Golf Championships, started learning 'real' Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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