The origin of cricket is a contentious issue. Historians and researchers have slightly different theories about the origin of the game. But some conclusions were drawn based on historical evidence, that traces the sport's origin to England. The word 'cricket' may have its origin in the word 'cric'. Crics were wooden staves carried by shepherds. The game developed in the grasslands of Kent and Sussex, where it was a sport played mostly by kids, and not taken up seriously by adults. The first written record of the game can be traced to 1598, when a mention of the game 'crekett' or 'crickett' was found. Slowly, it became popular among adults, only to be suppressed by the clergy. In 1611, two men were prosecuted for playing cricket instead of going to church.
The new puritan government of England clamped down on the spread of cricket. It had become a major pastime in the 1600s among the labor class and peasants. The 1680s saw the end of the puritan regime, and monarchy was in power again. The new rulers themselves were fond of the game, and hence, it gained popularity and respect. In spite of betting and petty violence associated with cricket's early years, the London magistrate viewed the game as 'respectable'. In the year 1788, the 'Laws of Cricket' were laid down by the Marylebone Cricket Club, England. These laws are still adhered to, except for a few revisions and modifications. Till today, it is the only game in the world that has 'laws' instead of rules.
Cricket gained more popularity with the association of the rich and the famous of England with the game. Charles Lennox, the 2nd Duke of Richmond, the 7th baronet Sir William Gage, and Alan Broderick, were all high-profile connoisseurs of the game. Their interest ensured newspaper coverage for the game. The 1800s saw the emergence of Australia and South Africa as additions to the cricket playing nations. The first official international test match was played between the touring English side against Australia. This match was played in Melbourne, Australia, where the home side won by a margin of 45 runs.
The Aussies again defeated the English in 1882, resulting in a public outcry against the poor English game. One writer published an obituary for English cricket, stating that its 'body' would be cremated, and its ashes spread all over Australia. The next series played between the two countries was termed as the fight to 'regain the ashes'. Till date, a test series between England and Australia is referred to as the 'Ashes' test series, and holds a special place in the cricketing world for the intensity and rivalry between the two cricket teams. Cricket made its only appearance in Olympics in the year 1900, with a game played between England and France. England won the gold medal. Today, there is a renewed effort to include it as an Olympic sport.
The 'Imperial Cricket Conference' was formed in 1909 by England, South Africa, and Australia. It was rechristened as the 'International Cricket Conference' until 1989, after which it was finally named the 'International Cricket Council'. It has 10 full members, 34 associate members, and 60 affiliate members. Test cricket remains the highest standard of cricket played. There have been many historic events and matches that changed the face of the sport time and again. The 'Bodyline Series' between England and Australia in 1932-33, the 1981 ban on underarm bowling after the Aussies used it in the infamous test series against New Zealand, and the emergence of the Indian sub-continent as a powerhouse of cricket in the late 20th century, are some of the notable events in the history of this game.
Australian magnate Kerry Packer glamorized cricket with his own version, after a fallout with the sport's governing body. He infused big bucks in the game, and rewarded cricketers who played in this rebellious cricket tournament. This new concept to hit the cricketing world was the 'One-Day' version, and became an instant hit with the players and the spectators alike. As of today, yet another version of the game, 'Twenty-20' cricket, is fast becoming a rage amongst the followers of the game. The Indian Premier League, which includes all the big names of the cricketing world, is a hugely popular tournament. What started as a remote pastime in the English moors, has developed into one of the most eagerly pursued sports in the world.