The India-England series is about to begin. While England has never been No. 1 in either Tests or ODIs, there is one thing in which it has always been miles ahead of the rest.
Right from starting competitive country cricket in 1709 to introducing T20s in 2003, England has always been at the forefront of new ideas, while the rest of the world merely followed.
India's biggest test after the World Cup
It is fitting that Lord's will be hosting the 2000th Test match on July 21.
You could say that the cricket world's economic superpower will take on the innovation superpower on that day.
Here are a few gifts which England has given to the game of cricket…
1709. Domestic Cricket: More than 300 years ago, Kent and Surrey played a match which is now recognized as the first recorded match between any two English counties. Competitive cricket began in a big way after that and teams vied for the title of the unofficial champion county.
The official championship began in 1890, something that continues to this present day.
1744. Laws of Cricket: While cricket had been around in some form, the first laws of cricket were regularized this year in London. That included things like the LBW rule and size of bat. Rules were first "orally" discussed in an agreement in 1727.
The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) took over the formulating of the rules after that and ultimately ICC became the final authority.
1745. Women's Cricket: It is difficult to believe that women's cricket is more than 250 years old and one wonders why it is still not that popular today.
The first recorded women's match was played in 1745 near Guilford. The first women's team was formed in Yorkshire in 1887. England also formed the Women's Cricket Association in 1926. The IWCC (International Women's Cricket Council) took over from the WCA in 1958.
1787. Urban Cricket: The 1787 English cricket season cannot be underrated. Before this, cricket was chiefly a rural game. Most of the games used to take place in rural areas.
Thomas Lord (yes, after whom Lord's stadium is named) built his first cricket ground in Marylebone (think MCC) London. Urban professional commercial cricket took off from here.
A famous historian of the day even called it the "Dawn of Cricket".
With the success of 1787, rural clubs gave way to urban venues like London.
1877. Test Cricket: This is the big daddy of them all and gave birth to international cricket as we know it today. While the first Test may have been played on Australian soil, England was the touring party and the driver.
The first truly representative "All-England Eleven" was formed in 1846. The concept of regular tours throughout England and other countries took hold. Out of these regular tours, the 1876-77 season ultimately became recognized as the first Test tour.
1962. One Day Cricket: The Mid-Lands Knock-Out Cup was the first One Day tournament of the cricketing world. While it featured four teams, it became a much bigger affair with the Gillette Cup.
In 1971, when three days of a Test were washed out in Melbourne, the organizers simply converted into a One Day International between England and Australia, which became the first ever ODI.
The concept had already been popularized thanks to the English domestic season.
1975. World Cup: Strange as it may sound, but in 1975, England was the only cricketing country in the world which could afford to host a World Cup. In fact it hosted the first three editions, called the Prudential World Cups.
It was only after 1987, beginning with India, that other countries could afford to do so.
1999. Technology Revolution: Snickometer was developed by English computer scientist Allan Plaskett in the mid-1990s and introduced by UK's Channel 4 in 1999.
Hawk-Eye, which can also be used in tennis was developed by English engineers again and introduced by Channel 4 in 2001.
Hot Spot, introduced by Australia, came much later in 2006.
2003. T20 Cricket: It's easy to think India as the rightful propagator of T20s. After all we won the inaugural World Cup and also have IPL, the most successful thing outside the international cricket arena.
But even into the new millennium, England continues to be the leader. The ECB introduced T20s in domestic cricket in 2003. When there was a move to bring it into international cricket in a big way, the BCCI was the biggest opponent!
Then there are many other things too…
The English Willow may have been used to make the first bat in 1624 and today continues to be the most preferred make.
Lord's Cricket Ground is one of the oldest sports arenas in the world and will complete 200 years in 2014. (This is the third Lord's ground, the first coming up in 1787 and the current in 1814)
In 1864, cricket's first reference book was published by English cricketer John Wisden.
England also had the cricket world's first genuine superstar in WG Grace, who retired from first class cricket in 1908.
One wonders where international cricket's next big idea is going to come from and whether any country other than England will be able to crack it!
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/