Raja Randhir Singh, the Secretary General of the Olympic Council of Asia and till recently India’s sole representative at the International Olympic Committee, has said cricket is giving up on the chance for “global expansion” by staying out of the Olympics.
Responding to a report that cricket at the Olympics is likely to remain a distant dream, Singh said, “If cricket was on the Olympic programme it would give a great boost, it would not be restricted to the few countries where it’s played and it would come on a global stage where all the greats of the world of sport are playing.”
The opposition to a push for cricket to return to the Olympic fold for the first time since 1900 is being led by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and by the England and Wales Cricker Board (ECB).
Several high-profile cricketers have been strong supporters of the idea. At his MCC Spirit of Cricket lecture in 2009, Adam Gilchrist made an impassioned plea saying, “The bid for cricket’s inclusion and subsequent Olympic participation should sit at the heart of the ICC’s global game development strategy.”One of the BCCI’s objections to joining the Olympics is their concern over giving up its ‘member autonomy’. Over the last few years, the BCCI has steadfastly kept its distance from the Indian Olympic Association as well as the sports ministry. There is a view in the BCCI that if the national team participates in multi-discipline games their position may come under scrutiny. Singh recalls how despite “trying very hard”, the BCCI refused to accept cricket as part of the last Commonwealth games in Delhi.
Steve Waugh, who mentored the Australian Olympic team in 2008 at Beijing, was another vehement supporter of the idea. Kumar Sangakkara, Sourav Ganguly and Stephen Fleming were among other prominent voices that spoke out in favour of the move at the time.
Cricket’s relationship with multi-discipline events has never really flowered. The 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur featured 16 teams in a 50-over competition with South Africa winning gold. While it was argued in some quarters that the experiment did not succeed, some of the participants were more upbeat.
Since the advent and success of T20, many see the format as a natural fit at multi-discipline games that lasts for just two weeks. There have also been suggestions to consider a structure similar to the one followed by football at the Olympics – only three players over the age of 23 are allowed to be part of the national squad. For the moment though, the ICC, or at least persuasive voices within it, appear to be indifferent to any such proposal.