A twist or two in the tale may derail the campaign —led mainly by Australia’s cricketers — to push for cricket to be included in the 2020 Olympics. The decision as to who will host the 2020 Games as well as the final list of disciplines to be staged there will be taken only in 2013.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has indicated that it is too early at this stage to comment on the campaign. The first step, though, was taken in December 2007 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted recognition to cricket, which was a part of the Olympics for the only time at Paris in 1900. That was a one-off match between England (represented by a club side touring France) and France (actually made up of Englishmen settled in Paris) and won by the English.
But here’s the twist. If cricket does make it to the 2020 Olympics with the Twenty20 format, then the matches will almost certainly not receive official international status from the ICC. The precedent has already been set.
Cricket (50 overs) was included in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and will also be part of the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, in November 2010. However, at both the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, the West Indies is represented by the various nations that make up the Caribbean. South Africa beat Australia for the gold medal at Kuala Lumpur. West Indian legends Curtley Ambrose and Richie Richardson also competed but under the flag of Antigua.
The other West Indian nations sending teams were Barbados and Jamaica. Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and others did not. The ICC had no choice but to strike the matches from official records since it only recognises the West Indies as an ICC member.
Cricket will be represented by the Twenty20 format at Guangzhou. But with the international calendar packed with the advent of the Indian Premier League, it looks pretty unlikely that the national cricket bodies of the four Asian Test playing nations will be willing to spare their top players. On this issue there is bound to be another clash between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the IOA, just as there was in 1998.
Back then the Commonwealth Games clashed with the Sahara Friendship Cup ODI series against Pakistan in Toronto and the BCCI was put in a quandary. The IOA raised an outcry over the issue of patriotism as it was determined to get Sachin Tendulkar to play under the Indian tricolour at Kuala Lumpur.
Ultimately two Indian teams ended up competing at the same time and both lost — the official Indian team led by Mohammed Azharuddin in Toronto (beaten 1-4) and another at Kuala Lumpur which included captain Ajay Jadeja, and Tendulkar which crashed out early.
The big question though is: will international (nation vs nation) cricket survive at all now that franchise-based IPL-style jamborees are springing up all over the world, luring cricketers into early retirement and away from their nations? At this rate, the ICC will lose all relevance. And the whole campaign for cricket at the Olympics (‘20/20 at 2020’) will likely fizzle out.
Gulu Ezekiel is a freelance sports journalist and author. The views expressed by the author are personal.