“An Encylopaedia of Rural Sports” published in the year 1840 talks about the spread of cricket in the British colonies. (page 134)
"Kent, Sussex. Hampshire, Surrey, and Middlesex, were formerly the principal counties in which cricket was much played, but its attractions have spread it through most parts of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland; and the examples of Englishmen have carried it to France and other continental countries. Even the burning clime of India cannot wholly keep down the practice of it; and, wherever the active and vigorous sons of Britain sojourn, the deep-rooted love of the game is sure to spring up in the tangible shapes of bats, ball, and wickets, surrounded by batters and scouts. The metropolitan resort of cricketers is a large area, called Lord's Ground, in Marylebone; and here is held the club, which is looked up to as the highest authority in the country in every thing appertaining to the game."
In his book, “Ten years in India: The life of a young officer”, published in the year 1850, Captain Albert Harvey of the 40th Regiment of Madras Infantry records ( page 275) that the natives were taking to the game quite well and were even becoming ‘adept’ at it.
I was glad to find that our officers and men were great cricketers; a capital game among Europeans, but one which I had not the slightest conception would be played by natives; 'twas therefore quite a novelty to me. The adjutant was very fond of the game himself, and taught it to the men, who in a very short space of time became perfect adepts in the art of batting, bowling, and fielding.
We used to meet regularly every evening, and have capital fun, officers and men siding and playing matches. I do not remember ever having seen men enter into the spirit of this noble game as did our fellows: they have such quick eyes that their batting was capital; and, as for bowling, I venture to say that our best at it would astonish even " Lillywhite' himself.
At fagging they were untiring, and in catching particularly expert. They got into the regular way of play; made use of all the phrases and technicalities of the game; had their umpires and their scorers, and did the thing in a manner that quite surprised me. All our steadiest and best behaved men were players. Their attending kept them out of mischief; it gave them amusement as well as exercise; and brought them in daily contact with their officers, with whom they got acquainted, and to whom they became attached by constant intercourse.
I know some who objected to the officers and men playing together, upon the plea of its creating too great familiarity between the two grades. So far from such being the case, I never once saw an instance of even one man taking any liberties or approaching to any familiarity with the officers; on the contrary, they were ever respectful, and invariably kept themselves under proper restraint.
Any of the cricketers losing his temper, from any cause, would be immediately scouted by the rest, and not allowed to play. They were all led to understand that while playing they were supposed to be doing so to enjoy themselves; all squabbling was therefore forbidden; everybody was to be in perfect good humour ; each was to do as he liked; there was no compulsion; but the rules of the game were to be strictly attended to, leaving all disputed points to be settled by the umpires chosen for that purpose.
Update 081111: As @KVSarmaJ pointed out to me on Twitter, maybe Lagaan was a true story!