One of the many things that the British Raj endowed the Indian subcontinent with is cricket. Since then India has been mad about cricket, and it looks like it will remain so for the foreseeable future.
But cricket is an expensive game- you need a ball, a bat, and a few sticks, at the very least. Expensive when compared to football, which needs just a ball. People in most poor/developing countries play football for exactly that reason. Then why is it not the most popular game in India, a developing country?
It all starts with the British policy of ‘occupation’ post 1857. The Macaulay doctrine was in effect; English education was provided to Indians (who would work for them as civil servants) which portrayed Europe as enlightened and progressive while shaming Indian culture and civilisation. “As we must rule 150 millions of people by a handful (more or less small) of Englishmen, let us do it in the manner best calculated to leave them divided (as in religion and nation feeling they already are) and to inspire them with the greatest possible awe of our power and with the least possible suspicion of our motives.”, wrote Governor-General Lord Canning to a British official. This led to Indian minds being programmed to think that anything Western was superior and hence, essential to becoming (or be perceived) progressive.
Cricket was played by the British stationed in India. The Indian English-educated Indian elite followed suit (as programmed) and this has cascaded to present day when it has become the most popular game in the subcontinent.
Now, football is also a result of European culture spreading through colonisation, but I was surprised to see the anomaly with India* and I believe the colonial imprint is one of the possible reasons.
|*When I compared the ODI and FIFA rankings of the top 12 cricketing countries, this is what I found
Now correlation does not mean causality. These countries might be ranked low because there are more countries that play international football than cricket. Or they might have sports that are more popular than cricket and football. But all of them were a part of the British empire.