MCC backs Twenty20 cricket at the Olympic Games

Stuart Broad

When cricket made its Olympic debut at the Paris Games of 1900 there were just two teams involved.

A Great Britain team comprising club cricketers from Devon and Somerset took on the French Athletic Club Union, a side composed almost entirely of British expatriates living in France.

The two teams were the only entrants in the competition after Dutch and Belgian opponents withdrew, and played in front of only a reported dozen or so British servicemen at the Velodrome de Vincennes cycling arena, a stadium capable of seating up to 20,000 spectators.

Not surprisingly, cricket's Olympic debut was also its swansong.

But the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is hoping to restore cricket's place on the Olympic roster.

A place at the greatest sporting party on the planet would help develop the game globally and particularly in China, according to its world cricket committee.

The concept of an Olympic cricket competition, along with the global use of the Decision Review System (DRS) and pink balls for day/night Test matches, was discussed at a presentation on Tuesday.

The panel included former England captain Michael Vaughan and captain of the England women's team Charlotte Edwards.

"The committee subsequently discussed the possibilities of cricket becoming an Olympic sport and believes this may be an important route for developing the game around the world and particularly in China," a statement read.

But what are the chances of cricket following the likes of golf and rugby sevens and gaining a presence at the Olympic Games?

"I can totally imagine cricket as an Olympic sport," says Rodney Miles, the former chairman of the Hong Kong Cricket Club (HKCC) who addressed the MCC on the subject this week.

"The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, has said he wants cricket in the Olympics. He makes the obvious connection that it is a huge televised worldwide sport. Logically, why isn't it part of the Games?"

Rogge offered his support for the inclusion of a shorter form of the game in June 2011, a year after the IOC recognised the International Cricket Council (ICC) as an official global sporting body.

"We would welcome an application," Rogge, a self-confessed cricket supporter, acknowledged.

"It's an important, popular sport and very powerful on television. It's a sport with a great tradition."

The ICC's then chief executive Haroon Lorgat subsequently lent his support to an internal report that could consider an application to introduce Twenty20 as an Olympic discipline as soon as - fittingly enough - the 2020 summer Games.

"We have never had a format that would lend itself to playing in the Olympics until Twenty20 came to the fore," Lorgat said in January. "We are starting to have a look at that."

Key to any Olympics introduction would be increasing the number of participating nations, according to Miles, for whom increasing China's role in world cricket is a passion.

"It's natural to think of this after London 2012," he said. "It would be a way of broadening the sport internationally so more countries play.

"We've got to get, like football, 32 countries participating, and China would qualify easily. Cricket is a world sport, not just for 10."

Miles points to the inclusion of cricket in the 2010 Asian Games as an example of its global growth.

Held in Guangzhou, China, Twenty20 was one of 42 sports at the Games, the gold going to Bangladesh and silver to Afghanistan. Full ICC members Pakistan and Sri Lanka sent understrength sides and India did not compete, but nations as new to the sport as Japan, Nepal and Maldives did participate.

For Miles - whose presentation to the MCC at Lord's on Tuesday was entitled: 'The greatest opportunity for cricket ever. 1.3bn people, the world's number one power. A cricket country' - an Olympic appearance for cricket in 2020 could prove a breakthrough moment for the sport in the potentially lucrative Far East market.

"In China cricket is seen by many as a minority sport, which is what you have to overcome, hence the Olympics," he said. "That's the issue, to get more people to watch and understand the game.

"Why are they not in the World Cup or the Olympics? They should be there. That's what life's about for sportspeople."

With luck, there will be more in attendance to see those games than the few who managed to catch the sport's one Olympic appearance to date. But whether they could be treated to a more exciting game is another matter.

The two-day 12-a-side match of 1900, though something of a shambles, did reach a thrilling climax.

Great Britain opened the batting on Sunday 19 August and made a first innings total of 117. France responded with a first innings of 78. Britain then made 145-5 on the second day before declaring and chasing the win.

They reduced their French opposition to 11-10 chasing 185, at which point France dug in and attempted to play out time for the draw. They succeeded for most of the day, the 11th wicket falling with just five minutes of the match remaining.

At close of play France were awarded bronze medals for their efforts and Great Britain silver medals and miniature models of the Eiffel Tower.

In eight years' time, Great Britain could be chasing gold.

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