Its official. Twenty20 cricket will now be a part of the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, and the host nation is gearing up to give some tough competition to the more established countries in the game.
"Cricket is slowly catching up in China. The game is played in a few pockets and I think the Twenty20 format will be ideal to popularise the game in the country," Fang Daer, marketing director of the Guangzhou Asian Games Organising Committee (GAGOC), said in New Delhi at a press conference on Tuesday.
The proposal to include cricket in the Asian Games was approved by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) at its general assembly in Kuwait earlier this year.
Besides cricket, dance sport, dragon boat race, roller-skating and weiqi (a traditional Chinese game) have been included in the 2010 Asian Games, in which 45 countries are expected to take part.
The increasing number of sports events in the Asian Games is a cause for concern for the OCA, which wants to restrict the number of games in the future.
"The OCA will address this issue in the general assembly and other seminars and we will curtail the number of tournaments in the Asian Games after the 2010 edition in Guangzhou. It is a serious issue and we have to handle it properly," said Randhir Singh, OCA secretary general.
On the inclusion of cricket, Singh said: "China, although not a cricketing country, was keen to host cricket in Guangzhou and this will be a wonderful way of continuing to promote the game in China and right across Asia."
Two venues are being renovated and one is under construction in Guangzhou, capital of the southern Guangdong province bordering Hong Kong.
"We have a venue in the Guangzhou University and it is being renovated for cricket. We are also renovating another venue in the city for the sport. Besides these, we are constructing a new cricket stadium," said Fang.
He added that India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and hosts China are sure to take part in the Twenty20 competition and hoped that the number of participating countries will go up in the coming days.
"The tournament will be tough as the teams from the sub-continent, which would form the core of the tournament, are extremely competitive," said Fang.
The marketing director felt that the introduction of cricket in the Asian Games wouldn't hamper the popularity of the other Olympic sports.
"Cricket is not popular among other countries in Asia. Only some countries of South Asia play the game. The introduction of cricket in the Asian Games programme will obviously boost the sport's popularity in the continent," said Fang.