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Can historic victory in Australia boost cricket’s popularity in India?

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India’s cricket team started 2019 on the highest note possible, drawing with Australia at the Sidney Cricket Ground to win their first Test series Down Under since 1948. The Guardian noted that although the final day was a washout, Indian fans still came out in large numbers to mark the victory. Despite being the national sport, and described as a religion in the country, cricket has been experiencing a dip in interest in India. Could this victory be the boost the sport needs to return it to its glory days?

In The Cricket Paper’s report on the historic victory, Indian captain Virat Kohli called the series win his proudest moment in his career so far. He also underscored the significance of this milestone in Test cricket, which he calls “the most important and the most valued format of the game.”

The victory couldn’t be timelier as Test cricket’s popularity has waned in India, while the Twenty20 format continues to be popular. This shift away from Test cricket in India began in 2008 when Indian cricket stakeholders rolled out their own Twenty20 league. The shortened format was a huge hit compared to Test matches and ODI, and has raked in annual revenues in the billions. India’s Twenty20 league became the global template. Test matches on the other hand are increasingly being played out to empty stadiums “from India to New Zealand”.

The victory in Australia will backup Kohli’s view on Test cricket being the most important and most valued in the country. This type of milestone matters, as it could serve as a much-needed spark in reigniting a nation’s waning passion for Test cricket. It feels like the country has been waiting for a reason to get behind their national team for a while now, and the Indian players responded by making history. Their win will likely mean a renewed, countrywide interest in Test cricket. That’s a big boost to Indian cricket overall, especially considering India’s subpar away record. Now that they’ve proven they can win away against one of the toughest cricket nations in the world, India will be looking to topple other giants in the form of England, and New Zealand.

Kohli: Indian cricket’s heart and soul. Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images/Getty Images

India will be back in action for their second ODI against the same Australian side they beat in the Test series. The first ODI, held in Sydney, was won by Australia by 34 runs. Despite that victory, however, India have been put down as the favourites for the second ODI in Adelaide on account of their Test win, as well as the country being number two in the ODI world rankings (Australia is currently 6th). Because of these considerations, bwin have India as clear favourites with odds of 1.67 compared to Australia’s 2.20. A win will set India up nicely for Friday’s third ODI, to be played in Melbourne, and then on to their next series against New Zealand. Just as important, a win will continue to put cricket at the forefront of Indian sport yet again, and that bodes well for the sport in the second most populated country in the world. So, 2019 could be the year India dominates cricket once again.

This article was brought to you by The Cricket Paper, the UK's best-selling cricket publication, on-sale every Sunday.
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