In what must look like a lifeline for the International Cricket Council (ICC), the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has brought back cricket amongst the disciplines for the 2022 games.
Cricket has always shared an awkward situation on the world stage. And it seems that although it would appear that the decision was another long rope for the ICC and for the sport to expand its exposure and interest from the perspective of globalization, several matters are still something of an uncertainty even as the OCA announced that it would include cricket back in the Asian Games scheduled for 2022 in Hangzhou.
With the ICC openly harbouring hopes of having cricket be represented at the Olympics, the Asian Games provides a platform and another feather on their resume that makes their case for the inclusion of cricket stronger. From that perspective alone, the ICC will welcome the inclusion although it will be hard pressed to influence some boards and teams about the veracity of participating in the games in 2022 and also, to the end of redefining its agendas which may and sometimes do differ from those of the opposing boards.
That said, India’s non-participation last time round did not stop the Asian Games from going ahead with cricket and also, gave Pakistan and Sri Lanka the opportunity to dominate proceedings in the natural scheme of things. With the games still being a fair bit away, speculation could go either way whether all Asian Test playing nations will throw themselves wholeheartedly into the games at Hangzhou.
While any exposure for the sport, on a global level, is a boost, what makes this scenario somewhat dubious is the fact that it has not always seen all around participation in that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) preferred their players stay home and play other tournaments vis-à-vis the Asian Games the last time it was held more than four years back. Besides in a multi format sport, there has been argument made for which format is the ideal representation at the global stage in a multi team tournament and the only reason Twenty20 appears to be winning the majority vote is mainly from the standpoint of convenience with its being the shortest format and also, requiring a lot less of the nomenclature that goes into Test cricket.
Apart from the obvious conundrum, there are, also, issues about the availability as well as viability of cricket grounds to best represent the game, something that has come in the way of cricket’s expansion plans. While time factor is being stated for why Twenty20 would be a more accommodating format, there are concerns in some quarters that the shortest format not necessarily being the ideal format to take the game to the world, the idea of cricket being represented as such could actually shortchange the game.
Although on the face of it, the inclusion of cricket in the Asian Games once more seems like cricket getting back on the propaganda wagon, how much credence and merit it holds is largely in question.