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Monday, May 20, 2024  
11 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

Cricket set for shot at Olympic glory

The choice of the sports still needs approval from the International Olympic Committee
Babar Azam plays a shot during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between Namibia and Pakistan at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Nov 2, 2021. AFP
Babar Azam plays a shot during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between Namibia and Pakistan at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Nov 2, 2021. AFP

Cricket’s long Olympic exile could finally come to an end this week when Games chiefs meet in Mumbai to finalise the programme for Los Angeles 2028.

Twenty-eight sports are already confirmed on the schedule but cricket was one of five new sports formally proposed for inclusion by organisers for the Games on Monday.

The International Cricket Council’s proposal is for men’s and women’s Twenty20 competitions – the shortest form of the international game.

In a statement, LA28 listed the Twenty20 version of cricket as one of the proposed ‘new’ sports alongside baseball/softball, flag football – a non-contact version of American football – lacrosse and squash.

There is no room though for breakdancing, which will make its Olympic debut at the 2024 Paris Games.

The choice of the sports still needs approval from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Cricket last featured at the 1900 Paris Olympics, when a team from Britain beat a side representing France.

The final choice of which sports are retained for 2028 will be voted on at the IOC Session next Monday in Mumbai, one of the hotbeds of the sport, as India hosts the men’s 50-over Cricket World Cup.

Lucrative choice

The International Cricket Council welcomed the decision to propose cricket.

ICC Chairman Greg Barclay said: “We are delighted that LA28 have recommended cricket for inclusion in the Olympics.

“Whilst this is not the final decision, it is a very significant landmark towards seeing cricket at the Olympics for the first time in more than a century.”

The ICC’s proposal is for men’s and women’s Twenty20 competitions – the shortest form of the international game at 20 overs per side.

Cricket has made moves towards a return to the Olympics for more than a decade, with the encouragement of the Olympic movement.

The late IOC president Jacques Rogge said in 2011: “We would welcome an application. It is an important, popular sport and very powerful on television.”

The current IOC president, Thomas Bach, has also backed the inclusion of cricket, which featured at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Adding cricket to the Olympic programme is an obvious move, financially speaking.

It would tap into the lucrative south Asian market, attracting fans in countries such as India and Pakistan.

The Indian Premier League, featuring cricket’s global stars, has helped India become the unquestioned economic driving force of the sport, thanks to legions of fans and lucrative broadcasting deals in a nation where the game is almost a religion.

The National Football League, which governs American football, backed the flag football bid.

The NFL’s version of flag football involves five players per side, on a smaller pitch and contact is not allowed – in place of tackling, players need to pull a flag off the person carrying the ball.

The sport of squash, which has mounted a long campaign to be included in the Olympics and lost out to breakdancing for the 2024 Paris Games, was also celebrating being recommended for 2020.

Its governing body World Squash said in a statement: “The decision is a significant and exciting milestone in squash’s history as the sport nears inclusion in the Olympic Games for the first time.”

Baseball is seeking a return after being included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where the host nation’s men won the gold medal.

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