The MCC’s World Cricket Committee, chaired by Mike Gatting, has “strongly urged” the BCCI to support cricket in the Olympics. The majority of ICC member countries are in favour of taking the game’s T20 format to the quadrennial showpiece. But BCCI, and also the England and Wales Cricket Board to some extent, has been reluctant. With the Indian cricket board being the most powerful and influential, its consent is necessary for taking the matter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“It’s one of those things that has frustrated me. We would like to urge the BCCI to have a look at it again and support the main body of boards that would like to get into the Olympics. It seems strange that everyone else seems happy to get in there (Olympics) because it’s just going to be so good for the game,” Gatting said at the conclusion of the two-day World Cricket Committee meeting in Sydney.
“Free-to-air TV all over the world. It’s only once every four years. It’s not going to be a scheduling matter. It just seems they seem reticent to try and get involved,” the former England captain added.
The ICC deliberated on the matter at its Board meeting in Auckland in October last year, where the BCCI asked for time to discuss it with its members before coming back to the global body. It is learnt that the ICC expects to hear from the BCCI during its next Board meeting in February. The MCC’s World Cricket Committee advocating cricket’s inclusion in Olympics, however, is not new. During its meeting in July last year, the committee had urged a “unified front” for cricket’s return to the Olympics. “The committee believes that now is the right time for cricket to move in line with other major global sports and be played in the Olympics.The committee hopes ICC will present a unified front in applying to the 2024 host city to include cricket in their games,” mentioned a committed statement.
Although the deadline for submitting bids to the IOC for the inclusion of new sports at the 2024 Games is over, the host city holds the right to add or subtract a sport. The Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) discussed the Olympics participation issue at a meeting in July last year, eventually deciding that the BCCI members should vote on it, for it’s a “long-term policy decision”. The matter will once again come up for discussion during the CoA meeting on January 22.
The Indian cricket board, on the other hand, has had its reasons for showing reluctance. “There are a few things. One is, what would be our position with regard to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) – the Indian contingent goes to the Olympics under the aegis of the IOA and the cricket board might temporarily lose its autonomy. Then, participation in the Olympics might eat into our Future Tours Programme (FTP). Also, with the ICC World T20 to be played every four years, cricket in Olympics might take the sheen off the ICC event and the global body could suffer a substantial loss of revenue. Its member boards in turn will be affected,” a BCCI functionary told The Indian Express.
Asked if the BCCI would reconsider its stance, the cricket board’s acting president CK Khanna said: “If the issue has again cropped up, the call has to be taken by the members, not the office-bearers. We will discuss the issue at the appropriate forum.”
In 2013, the ICC Board had ruled out cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics, because BCCI and ECB – former ECB chief Giles Clarke cited the negative economic impact on the English home season – rejected the proposal. Cricket’s entry into the Olympics could happen only through the T20 format, which is the game’s biggest money-spinner. The ICC feared that cricket becoming an Olympic sport could mean a substantial revenue loss, with the IOC taking out a big chunk.
Another major bone of contention for the BCCI is the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) whereabouts clause. If cricket becomes an Olympic sport, the cricket board will have to sign it, forcing the players to undergo ‘out-of-competition targeted doping tests’ and ‘blood tests’. The Indian cricketers have long been opposing this. And there’s a section that feels the WADA whereabouts clause violates players’ right to privacy.
One BCCI member spoke about the “contradiction” between the Olympic Charter and the Lodha Committee recommendations. “To participate in the Olympics, the BCCI will have to sign the Olympic Charter and accept its rules and by-laws. The Olympic Charter doesn’t have an age cap of 70 years for the office-bearers. The Lodha Committee recommendation doesn’t allow it. So there’s a contradiction,” he said.
It’s not that cricket will walk into the Games should the ICC reach a consensus, supporting the game’s inclusion. The fact of the matter is that cricket in the Olympics appears a pretty difficult proposition. With the number of athletes now restricted to 10,800 per Games, the host city will have to subtract a few sports to incorporate cricket. For a team sport of 11 players each side – and women’s participation is also obligatory – cricket might give the host city big logistics problems.
That, however, is far-fetched. First, the ICC will have to make an approach and without the BCCI’s support, the global body can’t take the matter forward.
A renewed push for the inclusion of T20Is in the Olympics, a better wage structure for Test specialists and more fan involvement…
More rewards for Test specialists: Shakib Al Hasan highlighted the issue of financial incentives in the various T20 leagues being higher than Test cricket. He stressed that players in poorer nations weren’t paid sufficiently and called for more transperancy with regards to how these boards spend the ICC funds .
Fans feedback: The committee believed that the member boards should get the voice of the fans on board by conducting a “significant global market research exercise to try to understand better customers’ expectations for Test cricket”.
Fighting corruption: The WCC felt that players would come forward more freely to report corruption approaches to their player associations with the confidence that their anonimity will be protected. They also called for more former players with personal experiences to educate the contemporary ones.
Women’s cricket spur: New Zealand skipper Suzie Bates spoke about the unprecedented visibility that women’s cricket is enjoying. The WCC felt that a certain uniformity in wages for women cricketers around the world would make it more competitive.
DRS standardisation: The committee felt that the World Test Championship should have a standardised DRS wherein all host countries have access to every element available.