Does cricket have an Olympic future?

Cricket's inclusion in the Summer Games would be a boost for the Asian sub-continent, writes Sohail Malik.

    Does cricket have an Olympic future?
    Jamaican gold medallist Yohan Blake rang the opening bell on the first day of the final Test at Lord’s Cricket Ground on Thursday [GALLO/GETTY]

    Cricket has spent much of the summer lurking in the shadow of the Olympic Games.

    Even yesterday Jamaican gold medallist Yohan Blake stole the spotlight momentarily when he attended the first day of the final Test between England and South Africa at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London.

    Nonetheless, the image of a packed Lord’s is a stark reminder of cricket’s prominence as a sporting powerhouse. The famous ground is known as the home of cricket, but it was the home of archery during London 2012.

    The Olympics did indeed leave their mark on Lords - with the outfield littered with scars left by temporary stands erected for the Games.

    These marks will eventually disappear, but when they do, will the Olympic spirit that filled the ground at London 2012 vanish too? Or will it seep through the stands and corridors of cricket’s most famous venue – leading to the game’s inclusion in the summer Games one day?

    Sri Lanka’s Captain, Mahela Jayawardene, certainly hopes so.

    When asked by Al Jazeera if he would like to see cricket at the Olympics, he said “Yes I think it would be a great opportunity, and I hope it happens sooner rather than later. It would be a great motivation for the youngsters, and the cricketers would love to take part”.

    Its inclusion would definitely boost Olympic fervour in his country and across the Asian sub-continent. Neither India, Pakistan, Bangladesh nor Sri Lanka managed to win a gold medal in London, but a cricket competition would unquestionably give hope to their combined population of 1.7 billion.

    Short-form potential

    The thought of Olympic cricket is not a pipe dream.

    The short form of the game, Twenty20, would be conducive to the Olympic schedule in terms of time – with games lasting just two-and-a-half hours.

    Cricket featured in the 1900 Summer Games, while more recently in 2010 it received full Olympic recognition at a meeting in Vancouver where the IOC formally recognised the governing body of world cricket, the International Cricket Council.

    But despite this recognition, there are numerous hurdles to overcome to make the dream of Olympic cricket a reality.

    Former England batsman and coach David Lloyd is not convinced cricket at the games would be a “good idea”.

    Lloyd told Al Jazeera “The Olympics is a four-year cycle and cricket already has that for its World Cup and then for its own World T20. These are the pinnacle for those formats and the Olympics would confuse the matter”.

    He also expressed concerns about the impact Olympic cricket would have on an already busy cricketing calendar.

    “There really isn't the time in the schedules for it at the moment. It is difficult to see how it could be squeezed in”.

    Bumble, as he’s known to cricket fans, has a point here. The Games fall right in the middle of the northern hemisphere’s summer – which is one of the busiest times in the cricketing calendar.

    During London 2012 alone there were four international series taking place – including two Test match tours, and a series apiece in the T20 and one day formats.

    Also some of cricket’s major teams would not be able to compete in their traditional form at an Olympics.

    The West Indies is a unified team of Caribbean nations and at the Olympics they would have to compete as individual countries – which they did for cricket’s only appearance at the Commonwealth Games in 1998.

    England would have to forge an agreement similar to their footballing counterparts - competing at London 2012 as Great Britain. One major problem is Northern Ireland whose players traditionally play as part of a unified Ireland team with the Republic.

    Nevertheless, Lloyd does lend some hope for those dying to see cricket at the Summer Games.

    "Cricket in the Olympics would be a wonderful thing for the women's game. I think T20 women's cricket would benefit from the Olympics as a showcase and they are in effect all amateurs”.

    Women’s cricket is growing rapidly with the fourth Women's World T20 set to take place this September in Sri Lanka.

    The earliest Olympics the ICC could launch a bid for cricket’s inclusion is 2024, but they are staying tight lipped for now.
    “We are conducting an evaluation process” is all an ICC spokesman would tell Al Jazeera.

    Whether we will ever see Olympic Cricket remains to be seen.

    While some might find it bizarre that one of the world’s most popular games does not feature at the world’s biggest sporting festival, they would have to accept that there are valid issues to consider.

    Bumble’s message is clear however: "Get the women on the rota; they would be a brilliant addition!"

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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