Cricket is officially an Olympic sport now; will return after 128 years -
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Cricket is officially an Olympic sport now; will return after 128 years

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From A Special Correspondent at Jio World Centre in Mumbai

One hundred and 28 years after cricket made its first and only appearance in the Olympic Games, the sport will again offer an Olympic gold medal and expand the excitement in the hitherto neglected markets of South Asia.

An estimate of 2.5 billion audience worldwide is what promoted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today (October 16) to endorse the proposal of the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic organisers to give approval for inclusion of men and women’s cricket competitions the Olympics five years from now.

The IOC media rights will now gain tremendously from the six-nation Twernty-20 cricket tournament, but the International Cricket Council (ICC) should also expect a windfall whose exact numbers cannot be specified right now.

The popularity of cricket in the Commonwealth nations, especially the passion it arouses among a billion plus Indians, has been repeatedly cited by the Los Angeles 2028 Organising Committee, and the IOC could only agree with the proposal, even as it also agreed to Executive Board decision to rubber-stamp the inclusion of four other sports – baseball-softball (men and women respectively), flag football, lacrosse (sixes) and squash singles.

Cricket was originally scheduled to be one of sports in the inaugural Olympic Games of 1896 in Athens, but was dropped as there was a shortage of entries.

The shortage of entries did not stop the organisers of the 1900 Olympics in Paris to go ahead with the competition, although the pullout by Belgium and The Netherlands left just two teams – Great Britain and France to play for the title in a two-day match.

Representing Great Britain team was a club – Devon County Wanderers – which was touring France at that time, while the French called French Athletic Club Union team featured 11 British expatriates who were living in Paris, two of whom were born in France.

Great Britain, in 2028, will begin the Olympic competition as the defending champions by virtue of their victory by 158 runs in 1900.

Great Britain scored 117 in their first innings and then bowled France out for 78. In their second knock, Great Britain declared at 145 for five. Set to achieve a target of 185, France were bundled out 26 – the last batsman being dismissed with just five minutes before stumps were drawn.

Surprisingly, when multiple-sport events against got interested in cricket, the Indian cricket board was a stumbling block. Until ICC came on board and told India that the Olympic cricket competition was now a reality, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) not was very eager to field teams. This reluctance of the BCCI begun with a spat with the IOA, which in the 1998 Commonwealth Games, said it would not accept a second-string squad just because the Commonwealth Games dates clashed with a one-day series between India and Pakistan in Toronto (Canada). The Indian cricket board, bowing somewhat to public opinion, split the top players and sent team to the Commonwealth Games led by Ajay Jadeja, which included star attraction Sachin Tendulkar. After India failed to advance to the medal rounds at the Commonwealth Games, several players from that side flew direct to join the squad in Toronto.

The relations between the IOA and the BCCI were never cordial after that, so much so that when the Olympic Council of Asia included cricket in the 2010 Asian Games at Guangzhow (China), the BCCI refused to field a team. BCCI insisted they had pre-planned international series clashing with the Asian Games, although the women’s team at that occasion did not have any advanced fixtures, and the officials went about hastily arranging a series of matches. Members of the women’s team could not be faulted for seeing this as a missed opportunity of winning a gold medal and the commercial rewards that came with it, but the BCCI did not seem concerned.

In 2014, at the end of the Asian Games, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) was openly critical of the attitude of India’s cricket authorities, who had a change of heart when the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) included women’s cricket among the disciplines for the Birmingham 2022 Games, where the India girls won a silver medal.

Both the men and women’s teams were fielded by India for the twenty-20 competition of the recent 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou (China). As the Indian men’s first choice squad was going to be busy with the one-day World Cup, it was widely accepted that the second string team would go to the Asian Games, where they won the gold medal. The women’s team, comprising the top players, also won a gold medal and the Indian sport fans had a lot to celebrate.

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