Sports in India, from traditions to international sporting competitions

When it is said that India is a very diversified country, the statement applies also to sports. Indeed, because the population and the country are so vast, interests in various sports appear across the country’s different regions.

India as a host in international sporting events

India has been the home of many international sporting events, such as:

  • the Asian Wrestling Championships, in 1979, 1987, 1991, 2003, 2010, 2013 and 2017,
  • the Asian games, in 1951 and 1982,
  • the Asian Table Tennis Championships, in 1980, 1992 and 2009,
  • the Men’s Field Hockey World Cup, in 1982 and 2010,
  • the South Asian Games, in 1985, 1995 and 2016,
  • the Cricket World Cup, in 1987, 1996 and 2011,
  • the Asian Athletics Championships, in 1989, 2013 and 2017,
  • the Afro-Asian Games, in 2003,
  • the ICC Champions Trophy (cricket), in 2006,
  • the BWF World Championships (badminton), in 2009,
  • the Hockey World Cup, in 2010,
  • the Commonwealth Games, in 2010,
  • …and many more.

The country also annually hosts the Chennai Open, the Mumbai Marathon, the Delhi Half Marathon, and the Indian Masters.

Field Hockey

Field hockey is recognised as India’s national sport. It is administered by Hockey India. The Indian national hockey team won the 1975 Hockey World Cup and have, as of 2016, taken eight gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals, making it the sport’s most successful team in the Olympics.


If field hockey is recognised as the country’s national sport, cricket is however the one sport that represents the real national passion. The country has played a major role in popularising this sport, which is administered by the Boards of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The Indian team runs at the highest international level and some players such as Sachin Tendulkar are exceptionally famous across the country. Some games are watched by the whole nation, such as matches against neighbour country Pakistan or else against United Kingdom national team.

Some major championships Indian cricket team has won include :

  • the Cricket World Cup, in 1983 and 2011
  • the ICC World Twenty20, in 2007,
  • the ICC Champions Trophy, in 2002 and 2013,


Football is also popular in India, mainly in North Eastern states. Its Indian cradle is Kolkata. The country has its own football national championship since 1996.


Recently, tennis also became popular amongst Indian population, mainly thanks to professional player Sania Mirza who peaked at world No. 27 in singles in 2007 and ranked No. 1 in women doubles in 2015. The improved results garnered by the Indian Davis Cup team and other Indian tennis players in the early 2010s have also made this sport increasingly popular across the country

Motor sports

India also has a place in the field of motor sports, with F1 drivers such as Karun Chandhok or Narain Karthikeyan. India’s main F1 constructor is Sahara Force India Formula One Team, usually called Force India, and is owned by billionaire Vijay Mallya.


Usually known as native to India under the form of Chaturanga, chess nowadays takes an increasing place in the country’s interest, especially through the rise in number of experienced Indian grandmasters (called Pachisi).

Amongst them, Viswanathan Anand, one of the world’s number one chess player who was sacred world champion in Mexico in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012 before being defeated by Norvegian Magnus Carsen in 2013.

Martial arts

India is also the birthplace of some earliest forms of Asian martial arts such as kalarippayattu, musti yuddha, silambam, and marma adi.

Other forms of martial arts have also recently gained in popularity, such as MMA (mixed martial arts) and boxing, both sports being introduced in a league format (Super Fight Leage, SFL) for the first time in the country in 2017. On Januar 19, the country witnessed one of the most intense and engaging fights in the history of MMA. SFL promoter Bill Dosanjh is now working towards creating a global sports phenomenon with the first mixed martial arts world cup.

Traditional sports

Additionally to international sports, India still retain some traditional local sports. Amongst them:

  • Kabaddi: team sport popular in the whole of South Asia. Kabbadi literally means «keep your breath» as players must keep their breath when opponents attack,
  • Kho-Kho: another tag game similar to Kabbadi,
  • Pehlwani: a form of wrestling native to Iran,
  • Gilli-Danda: an amateur sport played in rural areas, similar to Finnish Möllki.


Although Yoga is not always considered as a sport around the globe, it is however an Indian historical and religious discipline, consisting in three practices at the same time : breathing, body positions and meditation.

Yoga has been more and more popular around the globe thanks to its benefits on body and spirit well-being, going with and increasing individuality in modern society.