ECB. BCCI accepts the benefits of global exposure after initial resistance to Olympic participation
The return of cricket to the Olympics is approaching, with the possibility that it can do so in T10 format. This came after the International Criminal Court’s meetings for the new calendar from 2023 onwards, held last week, with the BCCI and the ECB, two key committees in any push, demonstrating a renewed commitment to exploring ways to achieve this.
Both the ECB and the BCCI have had reservations about the sport’s participation in the tournament in the past. However, it is understood that Tom Harrison, the ECB’s Executive Director, raised the issue at last week’s meetings of the ICC’s Board of Executive Directors, which focused on agreeing on an international calendar from 2023 to 2031. The idea was generally well received.
The ICC meeting was followed by a meeting of the BCCI Apex Council, which also gave conditional support to the inclusion of cricket in the Games. The BCCI have long been unconvinced of their need to participate in the Olympics and have been reluctant to cede any authority in the sport to the Indian Olympic Association. At this stage, they seem confident that their strength will not be diluted. BCCI has also confirmed that it will send a women’s team to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.
Although the Olympic format has yet to be decided – the board of executive directors will meet again in a few weeks and will likely set up a working group to explore the possibilities – there is growing support for the T10 version.
Since the entire tournament was to be squeezed into a window of about 10 days and the desire to use the event to spread the game’s global growth, a shorter format would allow more teams to compete and require less field use. The T10 game usually lasts about 90 minutes. One CEO attending the meeting suggested that “inevitably” the ECB proposed using a 100-ball format. Another insisted that the T20 remains a favored format, arguing that promoting a fourth international format could diminish the long-term value of T20 leagues.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires that any sport competing in the Games use a globally recognized format, and although there have been no international T10 events organized by the ICC, the ICC sanctions the playing of the Abu Dhabi T10 (this applies to that particular tournament , and not on the format as such).
This means that the decision on the Olympic Games could have consequences for an “additional” event in the global cycle, which has already been approved by the ICC board. While there is currently a working assumption that the event would be an ODI competition – the return of the champion’s trophy is essentially if not a name – there are those who believe it should be a T10 competition leading to Olympic qualification.
The earliest possible date for the inclusion of cricket in the Games would be the LA 2028 Olympics, but the 2032 Olympics, which would likely be held in Brisbane, could be a more realistic target.
“We want to help the global growth of the game and we believe that the inclusion of cricket in the Olympic Games would provide a wonderful opportunity to present our sport on the domestic market and take it to new audiences around the world,” said an ECB spokesman. “The ECB will enthusiastically support efforts to ensure this outcome.”
The ECB’s long-term reserves for the Games were based on the financial implications of participation. Since the Games will be held during the English season, their ability to host lucrative bilateral tournaments could be compromised. They may also have trouble scheduling a table; The Olympic Games in LA should be held from July 21 to August 6. This year’s Hundred Tournament runs from July 22 to August 21. There are also concerns about the possibility of two global events in one year and the impact it could have on the T20 leagues.
The ability of the Games to develop the sport globally is increasingly recognized, however, leading the ECB to conclude that the short-term goal will be offset by long-term benefits. It is also believed that getting involved in sports will accelerate the development of women’s play and convince more states to invest in their disability teams.
In addition to bringing this sport to a huge TV audience around the world, the inclusion of cricket in the Olympics will open up ways of funding for almost all ICC states from their governments.
From the perspective of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the inclusion of cricket in the Games would strengthen their importance in South Asia; an area in which throughout history they have struggled to gain an audience to which they are accustomed elsewhere.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent for ESPNcricinfo