The International Cricket Council (ICC) recently conducted an online survey, asking opinions from the fans regarding the inclusion of the T20 format of the game in the Olympics. The result, 87 percent voted in favour of it. And now the MCC World Cricket Committee has strongly supported the cause.
We talk about the globalisation of the game. ICC spends millions of dollars to promote the sport in different parts of the world. But, the reality is, nothing globalises the game more than an Olympic inclusion. A classic example is Rugby, which made its Olympics debut in Rio 2016 and according to an estimate of World Rugby, the sport has attracted 30 million fans globally as well as new countries like Kenya Vanuatu, Greece and the Latin American nations have emerged into the scenario.
Well, cricket can expect a similar sort of response, if it becomes an Olympic sport, again.
Recently the MCC World Cricket Committee had a discussion on this project and its members, which includes the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting, Mike Gatting, have unanimously decided to 'assist' ICC's push towards making both men's and women's cricket a part of the greatest sporting spectacle in the world during the Los Angeles summer Olympics in 2028, exactly 128 years later it was first (and only) time featured in the event.
"The committee particularly welcomed the news that 87% of respondents to ICC’s recent survey supported cricket in the Olympics, and that it was a goal for ICC to have T20 included in the 2028 Olympic Games. The World Cricket committee has indicated its support in the past for the inclusion of cricket for both men and women in the Olympics, and will do whatever it can to assist ICC in its endeavours, especially in regards to staging compelling cricket matches and supporting the spirit of the game," an MCC press release mentioned.
However, knowing some of the boards, especially the BCCI, are against this idea of the inclusion of cricket in the Olympics, does this idea seem realistic?
Well, on the sidelines of a media conference at the Lord's media centre, I recently asked this question to Gatting, who is the chairman of the MCC World Cricket Committee.
"I believe, it is," says the former England batsman. "Cricket's inclusion in the Olympics will open up a lot of avenues. New countries like China will join the bandwagon, its government will invest money, which will double up ICC's revenue. So, we have to work towards that."
"I believe we narrowly missed the bus in 2024 [Olympics], but in 2028 we have a realistic chance."
However, Gatting knows without BCCI's nod, MCC and ICC cannot go forward. And during the chat, he gradually made it clear.
"When it comes to fan following, Indian cricket sits right at the top. So, we have to keep them in the loop for sure," he said while discussing the possibilities of moving ahead with the project without BCCI, if they are reluctant.
"So, we as MCC can only give our suggestions. But I am sure ICC will convince the Indian board. Even initially the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) was against it. But now it seems they are on board as well."
Nevertheless, Gatting should know how rigid the BCCI can be in such issues. When cricket was a part of the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010, there was no representation from India in both men's or women's category. Eventually, the sport couldn't sustain in the subsequent editions of the event.
"We have to take one step at a time. So, first, we need to make sure that infrastructure wise we are ready to take the game there (Olympics). So, it’s good that we will have women's cricket 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. And most importantly, there will be participation from India. Hopefully, that should start the ball rolling," Gatting added.
He further confirmed that cricket will soon be back as a medal sport in the Asian Games.
Well, as an admirer of the game, we feel the Commonwealth and or even Asian Games participation might get the things moving at the right direction, but when it comes to the big stage, which is the Olympics, convincing the BCCI to send its teams will be a much more complicated task, considering the fact that neither the board nor its players will be comfortable to comply with the terms of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) or the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Hence, unfortunately, irrespective of the assurance of ICC and MCC, there are quite a few hurdles still remain in cricket's path towards becoming an Olympic sport.