Cricket is not, currently, an Olympic sport and there are no definitive plans to include it in future games. It has only been part of the event on one previous occasion and this was at the second ever modern Olympics in France in 1900.
The game is now played in more parts of the world than ever before and there has been talk of future inclusions but, as yet, there are no concrete plans in place.
Cricket is not currently included in the Summer Olympics and this has been the case since 1900. Only one match has ever been played and this took place at those 1900 games in Paris. The solitary game was played between Great Britain and France with the British team winning the gold medal. Originally, Belgium and the Netherlands were also set to compete but both nations withdrew.
Since then, the sport has been overlooked but there is speculation that this situation may change in the future.
Why is Cricket Neglected in the Olympics?
For many years, recognised international cricket was limited to just a few nations. The fact that other countries either had no interest in the sport or were not able to participate at the highest level didn’t help the game’s cause in terms of Olympic inclusion.
The very first test match was played between England and Australia in 1877 and, by the 1960s, the list of countries included at test level had expanded to just seven. Australia and England had been joined at this point by South Africa, New Zealand, Pakistan, the West Indies and India.
At this stage, test cricket was the only form of international cricket in place. One Day Internationals didn’t arrive until 1971 while the first T20 international took place in 2005. With South Africa soon to be excluded from top level sport until 1992, the list of test playing nations dropped even further.
Six countries playing at the highest level wasn’t enough to see the game included as an Olympic sport and, to be fair, cricket didn’t have a great deal of interest in the games at this point.
Over time, the list of participating test nations has grown and the addition of two limited overs formats has helped to expand the international family. However, there is an anomaly in cricket that doesn’t happen in other sports: namely, a weak nation has no opportunity to play the strongest teams at the highest level of the game (test cricket). This rather goes against the ethos of the Olympics and is a clear reason as to why the sport hasn’t been included thus far.
The key to cricket being included in future Olympic games lies in the new formats. T20 in particular is a form which levels the playing field to an extent and we have seen a number of shock results with lower ranked teams winning matches.
T20 also fits the Olympic blueprint for other reasons: Firstly, it is a compact version of the game with matches lasting around three hours. Contests can be decided within one day and the format would therefore fit neatly into a two-week tournament such as the Olympics.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the twenty20 international game is far more inclusive than the other two main formats. At the start of 2021, no fewer than 73 countries had full international status including the likes of Malawi, Iran, Gibraltar, Greece, Luxembourg and Romania.
In short, it’s the form of the game that is a perfect fit for the objectives of the modern Olympics. Cricket authorities have been aware of that and they have pushed cricket’s cause for a while but there has been a stumbling block. The Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) has been a dissenting voice and they have some personal reasons for doing this.
The BCCI runs the Indian Premier League which is currently the primary competition for T20 cricket. It’s not an international event but the domestic franchises that take part can attract the biggest players in the world and that’s why it’s the main global tournament.
It’s said that the BCCI is reluctant to allow the Olympics to compete with the IPL, even if it is only on a four-yearly basis. Not only are the games a potentially once-in-a-lifetime target for athletes, the timing is crucial here. The Indian Premier League traditionally finishes at the end of May with the Olympics starting just a few weeks later. It’s conceivable that the top players might want to rest during the IPL to make sure they are at peak fitness for the Olympic Games.
One final hurdle standing in the way of cricket’s entry into the Olympics also rests with the BCCI. In the past, the game’s governing body in India has been reluctant to work with the drugs agency NADA. This is a stumbling block as far as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are concerned and one that needed to be overcome.
One final issue in the present day is the fact that international cricket has such a crowded schedule. The IPL is joined by other T20 competitions around the world including the Big Bash, the Pakistan Super League, the T20 Blast and the Caribbean Super League.
Cricket in the 2028 Olympics?
There have been many factors standing in the way of cricket’s belated re-entry into the Olympic Games but there is genuine hope that the sport will be included in 2028. The event will be heading to Los Angeles and all parties believe that cricket could play a part in the competition.
Former England captain Mike Gatting is now the chairman of the MCC World Cricket Committee and he revealed that he had been in positive talks with the International Cricket Council (ICC). Gatting confirmed that all parties were working towards this common goal and that he was hopeful of cricket’s future inclusion as an Olympic sport.
Many of the hurdles that have been in place in the past have been addressed and the BCCI in India is also working to help the cause. India’s governing body is now working with the drugs agency NADA and this is a crucial point as far as the IOC are concerned.
The timing of the games and its position in a very busy calendar isn’t a problem according to Gatting. As he states, it’s just two weeks and not a month and this is a four-yearly event as opposed to an annual tournament. As long as the Olympic Games falls outside of other global competitions, namely the 50 Over World Cup and the T20i World Cup, there shouldn’t be too many issues.
Overall, it’s looking very positive and 2028 could be the point when we see cricket return to the Olympic Games for the first time in 128 years.
Anything beyond this point is pure speculation but there are good reasons to believe that cricket will finally appear as an Olympic sport in the not too distant future. The game has a need to open up to new territories and, in particular, it’s said to want to spread into the USA and China. Those nations have their own teams and cricket would be nothing new here. In fact, the West Indies have already played some of their international games in neighbouring Florida.
Cricket is already played in these countries but the magnitude of the Olympic Games is certain to attract a far bigger audience. In time, the game will develop in those regions and the sport can only benefit financially.
One reason why cricket has landed on the IOC radar relates to the introduction of T20 cricket. It’s a short format, lasting just a few hours and there are far more countries playing this format at the highest international level.
Another encouraging sign is the return of cricket to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. The sport is back on the schedules after a gap of 20 years and eight women’s teams from around the Commonwealth will take part in the T20 format.
However, there are some who feel that a brand new form of the game could be the one to appear at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. In England in 2021, The Hundred will make its debut with eight teams from across the UK competing for the inaugural title.
As the name suggests, the entire game consists of 100 balls and this shaves a little time from the T20 format which uses up 120 deliveries. The game complicates the laws slightly with 5 and 10 ball overs but the basic aim of scoring more runs than the opposition remains.
The key element is that shorter form. 20 deliveries would take around 30 minutes but that may be significant. With cricket playing nations concerned about adding more games to a busy international calendar, the Hundred might just provide the answer.
For now, the relevant governing bodies in cricket and the Olympics need to work together in order to make it happen. Cricket is now a global game and it is in a much better position to enjoy Olympic recognition.