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Why is cricket not an Olympic sport?

3 mins read

Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, wanted cricket to be included in the very first modern Olympiad in 1896. Although that did not happen, the sport did make a one-off appearance at the 1900 Games in Paris, where an amateur team from Britain comfortably defeated a weak French side, but since then cricket has been missing from sports’ biggest stage.

The world is a very different place now than it was in 1900, and cricket has also changed dramatically. One can argue that modern cricket would benefit from restoration to the Olympic ranks, but that has remained unlikely under the prevailing viewpoint in England, India, Australia and at the International Cricket Council.

Apart from that, there have been a few other issues that have held cricket back from taking place at the Olympics. First off, the Olympics have been around since 1896, when the first Summer Games were held in Athens, and cricket has been around for a bit longer, with records of the game dating back to the 16th century. Since then, up until 5 January 1971 when England played Australia in the very first one-day game, cricket had always been a five-day game.

 

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Having matches last a maximum of five days just wasn’t feasible. Even if the matches didn’t go on for a full five days, just having a single match last 2-3 days and having an entire tournament with multiple teams would have definitely overshot the schedule of the Olympics. Even if we include a one-day format or T20, one match in those formats takes eight hours and three hours respectively. A football game, on the other hand, is generally wrapped up inside two hours and maybe a little bit more when it comes to the knockouts. If we add the shortest format of cricket, T20, to the Olympics in the same format as that of football, it would take over 100 hours, which is too long for the Games given the number of events that already take place.

But even if an even shorter schedule was drafted, what about the reach of the game? Olympics are generally about bringing the world together through sports, and even though cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world, it is not a global game. Top-level cricket is only played amongst a handful of nations and many of the members of ICC associate and affiliate nations have a passing interest at the most.

But even if cricket was added to the Games, it would definitely lead to a viewership spike which could very likely lead to cricket reaching out to more people across the globe. But a T20 tournament being held every four years in the Olympics would mean the ICC would need to re-work its biennial T20 World Cup. Would the ICC sacrifice its biggest cash cow and let the Olympics take home the generous television rights? Apart from the ICC, the BCCI has been protective of its cash cow – the IPL, the world’s most popular and richest T20 tournament – so would the BCCI give in to opening up the tournament to wider audiences while losing out on the income? One can only guess but just food for thought. The BCCI has always been wary of competing T20 events and doesn’t allow its players to participate in any other T20 leagues around the world.

 

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What about the logistics and costs of adding cricket to the Olympics? Cricket needs a high level of administration to host a game or a tournament. It isn’t easy to make a cricket pitch overnight, and for non-cricketing nations it would be very expensive and difficult to set up a proper field with decent pitch for the tournament. With the Olympics being hosted all over the world throughout various nations, having a country invest heavily in a game which might not be popular in said country would be considered an investment not worth taking.

But all hope is not lost for cricket. The Olympic Cricket Committee was recently formed by the ICC in hopes of exploring the chances of the game making a comeback at the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Obviously, having the game returned would see a huge market expansion with nations like the USA, China and Russia wanting to feature prominent teams given their impact on the Games.

For far too long cricket was confined to the British boundaries, but an attempt to open up the game to newer audiences can expose the game to lucrative markets (USA and China), and the Olympics can be the perfect launching pad to bring the world’s notice to cricket. The road ahead looks promising for cricket, with the sport making a return to the Commonwealth Games at Birmingham 2022 after almost two decades. It’s a welcome return, and one can hope that cricket’s inclusion in the Commonwealth Games would help it take greater strides towards a return to the Olympics.

With the 2028 Games being held in Los Angeles, cricketing authorities have enough time to hash out the shortcomings and explore the logistics to bring back the game in a way that stays true to the competition while also growing the sport. But one can only dream of cricket returning to the City of Dreams.

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