Cricket is transforming into an Olympic sport

Indian Cricket team players Rinku Singh, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan, Ravi Bishnoi, Jitesh Sharma, Shahbaz Ahmed with javelin ace Neeraj Chopra at the Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou, China. (IANS/Instagram: rinkusingh)

Yajurvindra Singh

Cricket was played only once in the Olympics in the year 1900. England beat France to win the gold medal. Thereafter, the sport was discontinued in the Olympics. One may see the insertion of cricket once again in the Olympic games that will be held in 2028 in Los Angeles.

A decision for its inclusion has been pending and one hopes it sees a successful come-back.

Cricket is transforming itself into an Olympic sport. The conventional 5-day Test match, moved on to the One Day Internationals and thereafter, to the T20โ€™s. The metamorphosis that took place clearly indicated that the majority of the present followers and spectators want to see a faster and quicker version of the game. Action and aggression is what is popularly watched whether on the cricket field or through programs and films on the digital and television platforms.

The lack of a fully packed stadium in the opening match of the World Cup ’23 between England, the reigning champions and New Zealand has shown that the once popular ODI format is on the wane rapidly. This shows that the present cricket lovers are not attracted to the quality of cricket but more towards a meaningful encounter between 2 teams.

There has to be an emotional attachment for them to watch cricket and in India, a match against Pakistan or in matches where India is involved seems to be all that matters. One is witnessing similar trends in other cricket playing nations as well.

The T20 Indian Premier League (IPL) is a good example of a successful cricket tournament that has managed to get the following through a loyalty factor and so stadiums are filled by local supporters.

The next major transformation that one can see rapidly taking shape is in the T10 format. This format is perfect for an Olympic inclusion as it is short and one that can be completed in less than 2 hours.

The shorter the format gets in cricket, the less the difference in the superiority factor between two competing sides. The skills, technique and artistry that one appreciated and associated with cricket becomes less relevant. The glamour of big hits and unconventional approach becomes the order of the day.

Young cricketers today want to first learn how to smack the ball rather than to master their defense. This is quite understandable, as they can see the direction in which cricket is progressing and what they feel will be the trend in the future.

Cricket may be the domain of around 12 top and prominent teams, however, the game is soon getting enormous popularity around the world. The famous book that was brought out by Wisden, “Elk stopped Play” was a revelation in learning about the corners of the world that cricket was being played. It had some interesting and absorbing anecdotes and tales. Since then the game has gradually expanded around the world even further and progressed phenomenally well.

I am presently in Europe and was pleasantly surprised to learn of a European Cricket League T10 Championship being held in Malaga, Spain. The tournament is being played between 31 European countries and that too on a national level. One was astounded to learn that Germany itself has 200 teams playing cricket and similar growth can be seen in countries such as Italy, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands and France.

Similarly, the establishment of cricket teams in the Middle-east, United States, South America and the ICC Associate cricket playing members around Asia, Africa, Australasia and even the West indies have mushroomed extensively. The T10 version of the game has found a favorable acceptability and is far less complicated to play. The other and most important reason being that cricket lovers from the major cricket playing countries have now settled down and have jobs in every part of the globe. Cricket is establishing itself through their presence and has, therefore, grown and migrated successfully. The T10 is a perfect way to popularize it, both amongst the men and the women.

This is an ideal time and situation for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne to look at including cricket into Olympics.

The viewership that they will capture will be phenomenal, especially as it is definitely a sport that is finding favor with the mass audience.

The sport of cricket for the future of its success needs to change with time. Presently, the T20 is the most successful format of the game.

Speed and quick action have become the most significant factors in oneโ€™s life and the T10 seems to be the next phase and trend of cricket going forward. A format that is ideal for an Olympic entry with around 50 national sides competing for Gold.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal)

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