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Opinion

Olympic cricket is a golden idea

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24th December, 2020
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On 24 December, reports suggested the Board of Control for Cricket in India would back a bid to include cricket in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Should the bid be successful, it would be only the second time ever, after Great Britain won gold (over France) by 158 runs in 1900.

Traditionalists may howl at yet another tournament crowding the calendar (is there a worse term in cricket than “ICC tournaments” to describe a player’s record in World Cups/T20 World Cups/whatever?) but let me posit that this could be the tonic for what increasingly feels like a mindless muddle of tournaments happening around the globe.

For one thing, the IOC would be less reliant on making sure India/Australia/England make at least the semi-finals. Sure, the gold will likely go to a heavyweight of the game, but the short timeframe (and the IOC’s own financial heft) will ensure the tournament will likely have a focus on excellence over TV rights. No ten-team round robins!

This might mean more room for minnows. This is more wishful (basketball only has 12 teams and baseball tournaments have had six to eight in years gone past), but perhaps the IOC will enforce a bigger-than-ten-team tournament.

We will see cricket played by the best in new locations. While I am usually a traditionalist, the idea of seeing Australia playing India under lights in a T20 in Los Angeles for a gold medal sounds amazing. As for those who say the ground can not be found – if the New Zealanders can play cricket at Eden Park, you can fit inside an NFL stadium.

And best of all, it will actually mean something. T20 is still searching for tradition and something for fans to attach memories to (do you recall many previous T20 World Cups? Apart from the fabulous women’s T20 this year, I hardly do). Olympic Games are iconic events with a sense of occasion – Sydney 2000, Beijing 2008, London 2012. They have a gravitas that would resonate with both fans and a wider audience.

Look at someone like Cameron Green – at his age he could play in both 2028 and 2032. What sounds better: two-time Gold Medalist Cameron Green or two-time T20 World Cup Winner Cameron Green? It’s the former for me.

And to those who say the players won’t care for it, I quote Michael Bevan, describing Shaun Pollock after South Africa won gold over Australia at the 1998 Commonwealth Games: “he stood on the dais in Kuala Lumpur, gold medal around his neck, proudly singing his country’s national anthem…I’d have liked to have done that” (source: The Best of Bevan, p128).

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I’d like to see that too. Bring it on!