POSTED: October 21st 2015

NEIL WILSON: Cricket next for the Olympic Games?

Cricket is growing more and more international / Bigstock
Cricket is growing more and more international / Bigstock

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Rarely have I been more surprised than when I discovered that a magnificent silver trophy awarded to the first British skier to finish the famous annual Hahnenkamm downhill ski race had been presented by the Kitzbuhel Cricket Club.

Cricket played in Austria? Yes, and in Nepal and Afghanistan. And if you believe the International Cricket Council, the sport's world body, in a total of 105 countries.

And there was me thinking it was a sport played in a tiny handful of countries of the former British Empire.

It matters suddenly that it is not just a Commonwealth sport because the ICC is the latest body to realise the usefulness of the Olympic Games in promoting its sport to a wider audience. Next month its chairman and chief executive will knock on the door of the International Olympic Committee's door in Lausanne to begin exploratory talks.

Convincing Thomas Bach and his membership about those numbers - only 10 are regarded as Full Members because the rest aren't good enough - will be the least of the delegation's difficulties.

Just about everything else about cricket would be a problem for the IOC to accommodate within an Olympic Games: the number of players (11-a-side), the specialist preparation required for the playing area and the length of matches.

Even the quick version called T20 in which each side is limited to 20 overs of six deliveries needs four to five hours. That means no more than two matches in a day on a single ground, and what host city would want to offer more than one ground when it would probably never be used after a Games.

One suggestion is an indoor version played on mats which has recently been developed of eight players per team but would the IOC want yet another bastardised sport when it already has seven-a-side rugby union and age-restricted football.

Cricket is even split within itself over the advantages of Olympic participation. India and England, two of the big three cricketing nations - Australia is the third - fear a clash with their own lucrative summer seasons.

Cricket was on the programme of the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 but was cancelled through lack of interest. It did appear in the 1900 Games in Paris but there were only two nations entered, England and France. The French team had only one Frenchman, the rest being English expatriates in Paris. England, a touring team from the county of Somerset, won comfortably.

The players did not realise even that they were playing in an Olympics. They all thought it was an event at the concurrent World Fair. Only in 1912 did the IOC retrospectively award them medals. 

So if the IOC and the ICC do start talking up a deal next month for the 2024 Games, do not imagine dancing in the streets of Paris. Or those in Los Angeles if that is the choice of host city. After all, the United States of America is not even a current member of the ICC. Its cricket association was suspended by the ICC earlier this year.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Olympics · Cricket · Neil Wilson

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