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Dignified and unhurried with compulsory breaks for tea and cakes, cricket is considered in many ways the quintessential upper-class English sport. The longest running cricket fixture is between the elite schools Eton and Harrow, and the 2005 Ashes winning England squad was more than 50% privately educated.

However, despite outwardly upper class appearances, the history of cricket has its roots in some wonderfully varied groups.

If you support the English cricket team like Fiyaz Mughal, you’ll understand just how exciting the sport can be and how much passion it engenders in supporters from many different types of backgrounds from around the world.

Cricket’s Origins in Sheep Farming

The origins of cricket stretch far back into the early years of English history. One of the earliest references to cricket dates back to Florio’s Italian-English dictionary in 1598.

In the sheep grazing pasturelands of southeast England, shepherds and locals would use bundles of wool as balls, paddock gates as wickets, and a shepherd’s curved crook as a bat. As sheep grazing kept the grass very short, it was naturally ideal for bowlers to bounce the ball on.

Overarm Bowling’s Female Inventor

The history of cricket isn’t dominated entirely by men. In fact, one of the most iconic aspects of cricket – bowling overarm – may have been invented by a woman.

It is widely believed that Christina Willes, in the early 1800s, was the first person to bowl overarm, to avoid getting her arm caught up in her wide skirts. She was bowling to John Willes, her brother, who later tried out this new method at Lord’s.

Cricket Spread Around the World

Imperialism saw cricket spread to Commonwealth nations like Australia, the West Indies and India.

Cricket soon became rooted in many countries, but it was on the Indian subcontinent that it really took off. Initially, wealthy groups like the Hindu and Parsi business communities of Bombay took up cricket as a prestige symbol.

Yet it also proved popular with the wider Indian community, with vast crowds turning up to watch the first Hindu and Parsi teams play against each other and their colonial rulers.

Today, cricket is India’s most popular sport. In 2015, the India-Pakistan ICC World Cup match attracted a jaw dropping 288 million viewers.

Therefore, it is clear that there’s no need to view cricket as an elitist pastime. In fact, history has proved it to be a great unifying force around the world.