Another glorious edition of the Olympics goes into the sunset. A couple of weeks that showcased the best athletes compete for the ultimate glory, an event that exhibited disappointment, defeat, joy, pride, victory, glory and a portrait that had participation from 204 nations! A rich history, a massive platform, unparalleled glory and probably the biggest show sports can offer, makes an Olympic Games edition stand out.
Ardent cricket fans/followers would feel left out from this marquee sports event. Unlike Motorsports, Cricket is a recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Though cricket wasn’t an outright success in multi-sport models previously, times have changed and today cricket has its T20 avatar to offer for such events. The ICC has 105 countries as its recognized members, spanning continents and covering most of the globe.
So what is keeping the ICC and its member bodies from applying itself for the Summer Olympics? About a decade ago this would have been a valid question to pose, with issues of longevity of cricket matches, participation, logistics, maintenance of pitches but today most of them have an answer in T20 cricket. England, West Indies, Sri Lanka (important ICC members) have their home seasons during the period when the Summer Olympics are held; yet two weeks off that schedule once in 4 years shouldn’t really be a big problem. Another objection to that proposal is that very few nations play cricket. During London 2012, Football (men) had 16 teams & Hockey (men) saw 12 teams compete for the podium. The World T20 has 16 teams in the fray and a few of them pick themselves from the competitions for associate & affiliate members. Through World Cricket League (ICC’s endeavor to improve the participation of associate & affiliate members) the game is gradually spreading with today about 40 such nations participating regularly. Yes cricket is not competitive at all its levels, but things can change if they are allowed to.
Another argument that goes in refraining cricket from aligning to the Games of the Olympiad is that Olympics stand as the height of glory, the summit of competition across most of its disciplines. Cricket has a 50-over & a T20 World Cup and a test championship in the pipeline. Draw parallels to other sports at the Olympics: Football - surely the Olympics isn’t the biggest show the sport has to offer, Tennis - Federer would probably cherish his Wimbledon trophy more than he would rue his gold medal, and you could add a few other sports as well. In terms of cricket the Olympics could serve the pinnacle for T20 cricket, with the World T20 being scrapped. Instead of having windows in the FTP (Future Tours Program) for Champions League T20 having one for the Olympics could serve more purpose. Recent history will infer that the T20 format works well when it has more than 2 teams in the fray; be it the World T20 or domestic leagues, as compared to ODI or test cricket.
A successful company has all its managers delivering what they are expected to - the Production and Quality in-charges ensuring repute and ironing out flaws, while the Marketing heads making sure that the balance sheets record a green report! Cricket needs a bit of that; it has had & continues to have minute scrutiny about the game, modifying certain aspects, amend archaic rules but it needs more of the latter part. Any general sports follower in say India or Sri Lanka would say that he likes to see sporting disciplines at the Olympics which he has never seen/heard of; similar could be true for cricket and countries like USA, Germany, and Russia etc.
Cricket could stumble upon during its initial phase at the summer games - could face challenge of fan following, ensuring cut-throat competition at all stages, maybe of under-cooked cricket tracks (the 2020 Olympics could be held at either Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo) and a few others, but in the long run it could be the fillip that could propel cricket as a truly global sport. Before working towards a solution, the administrators should ask themselves honestly - does Cricket need Olympics or do the Olympics need Cricket? Ex-players, a few members from the cricket fraternity are pressing for the inclusion of Cricket in the 2020 edition; could a moment for poetic symmetry. You will continue to hear opposing voices or those of criticism, but the larger picture suggests Cricket has everything to play for in the Olympics!