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Why cricket should go Olympic - this time for real

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6 days ago
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Cricket is planning a run at the Olympics again.

But is it just wishful thinking from administrators or could it actually happen this time? Either way, I believe it has to occur now if the sport wants to grow.

This week MCC World Cricket Committee Chairman Mike Gatting has started talking up the prospect of cricket appearing at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 2028. He says he’s spoken to world cricket’s governing body, the ICC, and they are working on it and are “hopeful.”

Let’s hope Gatting’s judgement here is better than it was that fateful day at Old Trafford in 1993, because plenty of young cricketers’ hopes are resting on him not getting bowled on this one.

England's Mike Gatting (centre) is bowled out by Shane Warne

(Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Of all the arguments in favour of cricket becoming an Olympic sport, the key one is that it will give more opportunity to Associate and Affiliate nation cricketers. These are players from the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania who have been hoping for years to be part of a truly international cricket tournament and so far been basically denied.

One presumes, with the International Olympic Committee involved, that cricket’s administrators won’t be able to limit the number of participating countries to just ten, as they did in the last World Cup in England. I would love to see eight groups of four teams which then leads to a round of 16, probably involving most of the top nations and hopefully a few surprises.

There are other key reasons to get cricket to the Olympics too. Despite all the critics of the IOC in recent times, getting a spot on the Olympic stage is a great way to lift a sport’s exposure globally. For cricket, which is still written off in large parts of the world as a quirky British colonial pastime, it’s a chance to show how far the modern game has come.

In Twenty20, cricket has the perfect format for a short, intense competition involving plenty of teams over just a few weeks. While not particularly nuanced, the 20-over game is entertaining and doesn’t require much patience from the viewers. The format has been tried and tested over some period now and – boundary count-backs notwithstanding – it should be easy for new fans to understand.

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Then there’s the issue of history. For a sport that was reportedly planned to feature in the first modern Olympics, cricket has only been at the Games once – in 1900 in Paris. Back then, Great Britain thumped France in the ‘final,’ with only two teams involved in the tournament.

After that, its reappearance in the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony didn’t do much for the sport’s street cred. It’s a poor legacy which needs changing.

There will be those that doubt whether the US can put on a world-class T20 competition involving multiple teams, especially after the recent upheaval in that country’s cricket scene. Most likely, the tournament will need to be played in different parts of the country, including Florida, Texas and Indiana, where other higher-level cricket pitches exist.

I’m concerned about the matches fitting into an already cramped international schedule, but if the BCCI and ECB back the proposal, and the money is right, I’m sure they can find some room. It’s just one less meaningless bilateral series for the big nations every four years and fledgling nations don’t get enough cricket anyway, so they’ll enjoy the qualifiers.

Los Angeles might seem a strange place to revive cricket’s Olympic story, but it’s as good a place as any. At least the weather is half decent. The recent European Cricket League event in Spain showed what can be achieved in a non-cricketing country when a tournament is well organised.

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Now, all we need to do is find the next Pavel Florin. Get the Romanians involved!