It’s an achievement for any sport to become a part of the biggest multi-sport event in the world, the Olympics. For a game like cricket which has a history of more than a century and is already popular across major countries. It is yet a dream for cricket fans & the game to become part of the Olympics. In every Olympic edition, a few sports make their debut and some of them continue to be permanent Olympic sport. Even in the recent Tokyo Olympics 2020, five new sports such as skateboard, sport climbing, baseball, karate, and surfing took place for the first time.
Why is cricket not in the Olympics?
The major obstacle for cricket in the Olympics is the duration of the game. Since the first World Cup in 1975, including cricket in the Olympics was a major discussion but the then predominant test format or the then-new 50-over format wasn’t compatible for a 14-day event. Now the game has evolved into shorter formats and that increases the possibility of featuring in the Olympics in upcoming years.
History of cricket in Olympics
The first-ever Test cricket match was played between England and Australia on 1877. As the game was already popular in two different continents since its inception, the popularization of cricket wasn’t difficult at all. Cricket was set to be an official Olympic sport back in the 1896 Athens Olympics which was the inaugural edition of the modern Olympics. Unfortunately, the event was canceled due to lack of participants. In the very next Olympic games hosted by the dream city of Paris, The Great Britain, Belgium, France and Netherlands have decided to take part in the cricket tournament. But Belgium and Netherlands bid to co-host the Olympics along with France which was turned down by the International Olympic Committee.
This pushed both nations to withdraw from the cricket tournament. Cricket in the Olympics was on the verge of getting scrapped once again but the IOC and both remaining teams agreed to continue. Eventually, the first-ever Olympic cricket match was played between The Great Britain and France which Britain won by 158 runs. The match wasn’t even recognized as an Olympic game until 1912, but just as an exhibition match. Moreover, neither Britain nor France set up an official national team for the match. The British sent Devon and Wanderers Cricket Club who were already in Paris and France set up an “All Paris” team which majorly consisted of British expats. Sadly, it was also the last time cricket had ever happened in the biggest sporting spectacle.
Why it’s the best time?
Traditional Test cricket is played across five days. The basic structure of a tournament includes facing off different teams in different rounds and the best wins. To follow such a format with Test cricket is simply impractical, especially when the whole event should be wrapped up in a period of two weeks. In 1975, Prudential World Cup was introduced and cricket became a global sport. The first world cup contained 60-over matches which then cut down into 50 over One Day Internationals.
The format ensured that the match can be finished in one day time and the format intrigued fans and players as well. Still, completing a series of ODIs in 14 days will be exhausting for the players as they may need to play two or three matches in a short period of days without enough resting time. Also, cricket cannot be played on the same pitch the same day which demands a bigger amount of stadiums to conduct matches at the same time.
What’s the revolution?
T20 format was the revolution cricket needed to become a popular sport across many countries. The T20 World Cup of 2007 and major T20 cricket leagues like the IPL kicked off high-paced, compact, and thrilling cricket matches. The fans loved the intensity and compactness of the format and as a result, different countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, UAE, Scotland etc… took the game seriously and groomed a bunch of talented players. Now, there are less popular T10 format (10 over game) and The Hundred (100 ball game).
But cricket not only a game of rules but of character and patience. Shorter formats than T20 might take away the originality of cricket; it will no longer be the game we used to watch and play. T20 is now a widely accepted format and several amateur countries now have their T20 national sides. It might just be a matter of time we see cricket back in the Olympics.
Cricket in Olympics 2028
Soon after the Tokyo Olympics ended, ICC made their ambitions of including cricket in the Olympics loud and clear to IOC. They are bidding for a place in the 2028 Olympics which is about to be hosted in Los Angeles. The success of the upcoming T20 World Cups and the quality of associate nations in the tournaments determine the chance of the game being featured in the Olympics. There are no evident reasons as of now to why cricket cannot be added as an Olympic sport and the hopes of ICC and national cricket boards are held high. Cricket has always evolved for good and this might just be another milestone in the history of the gentlemen’s game.