Cricket At The Olympics
Updated: May 17
With the news that the ICC is finally throwing its weight behind an Olympic bid meaning that cricket may appear at the 2028 Los Angeles games.
The importance of this cannot be understated. The ability to have the sport projected through another platform is a huge win for cricket in terms of visibility, particularly in traditionally non-cricketing nations. For the first time, many people who are from these nations will have an opportunity to watch the sport without searching for it.
It’s not just about visibility though.
China for example famously were given $30,000 by the ICC in 2015 to spend on their cricket infrastructure but can expect huge government grants for any Olympic sport. The impact on the game in these countries could be huge.
A poster from the last time cricket was on the cards at the Olympics
The last time the sport was an event at an Olympic games was the 1900 Paris Olympics. At the event only two teams entered - a British representative team made up of a touring team from Devon and a French side made up mostly of British expats in Paris.
To this day, France still holds the enduring silver medal for cricket at the Olympics.
Cricket in 2028 will undoubtedly look very different from 1900 but with the request to the International Olympic Committee now made the big question now becomes this: ‘how will the tournament look?’
Although the era of amateurism at the Olympics is over, it is unusual for sports to put out a full strength side in organised team sports. The football is made up mostly of U23s for example.
The only other recent precedent for cricket at an Olympics was the 1998 Commonwealth Games which was won by South Africa. In this tournament the squads themselves were a mixture of full strength outfits like the aforementioned South Africans and also the Australians. Meanwhile Pakistan and India named noticeably weakened sides.
Interestingly, cricket is back in the Commonwealth games next year in Birmingham just for the women’s game. This may get a better sense of the make up of how a future Olympic competition may look.
A T20 format for the games seems the most likely.
Unlike the 1900 Olympics which consisted of a two innings game, the 2028 version will most likely want to be snappier and have the whole tournament done in under two weeks.
First class cricket can pretty much be ruled out due to time constraints alone but it must also be remembered that this is an exhibition of the sport meaning that the cricketing world wants to give a taste of our great game to the rest of the world. Without a doubt, the best way to do that is through the shorter format. We all know the longer format is better, but it requires an appreciation of the game. T20 gives you all the action in an Olympic calendar-confined space of time.
T10 has also been suggested as a format, but without an international standard for the shortest format of the game it seems unlikely.
If we return to next year’s Commonwealth games as a blueprint for 2028 we can suggest as well that there will be 8 teams who can qualify to play but this won’t be as simple as the eight top ranking sides in the (we presume) the T20 format. According to the ECB’s Ian Watmore when he spoke to the BBC’s Stumped podcast the tournament could feature up to 16 teams.
The first, and arguably biggest, wildcard in qualification will be that the USA will get a spot at the table as hosts of the 2028 Olympic Games. The USA have lofty ambitions for cricket in the coming years so it would be interesting to see them given the chance on the big stage (considering how much associate involvement in major tournaments has been stripped back of late).
Barbados will expect a seat at the Olympic games as a traditionally strong Caribbean outfit (Photo credit: CPL Ltd. 2021)
Secondly, international cricket teams do not follow a linear pattern to Olympic federations. The two major examples of this are England, under the bracket of Team GB, and the West Indies made up of a number of smaller Caribbean Olympic federations.
It also must be factored in that the Olympic Games will take place smack bang in the middle of an English cricket season - making it likely that (even if Team GB enter and qualify) they would at best send over a second string XI with any additional Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish players.
The West Indies would have to have an internal play-off to see who would enter from there (expect Barbados to be in there).
Having cricket in the Olympics would overall be seen as a good move for the game. Barring slight interruption with the current cricket calendar - the ICC expect the Olympics to work alongside current international tournaments such as the World Cup, Champions Trophy and T20 World Cup.
Apparently, there is still a great deal to be discussed to get cricket to Los Angeles in 2028, but the building blocks are there. Hopefully, it’ll do a great deal of good for the game.