By Harbour Heather
That was almost it. This piece was very nearly one word long.
While the entre world, including the sporting one, has been on lockdown, there has been a lot of speculating on social media to keep us occupied, and keep brands relevant. What if… Who is… Why not… How about we…
If cricket were to be in the Olympics, what format should the competition be?https://t.co/r52b0Kaqah
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) April 18, 2020
No. Just shut it down.
Cricket doesn’t need the Olympics, and the Olympics certainly don’t need cricket.
The Olympics aren’t for every sport. They’ve been built upon an ‘amateur’ history. The Games should be left for the sports who don’t have any other pinnacle, the sports whose athletes plan their entire lives around peaking once every four years, and don’t have lucrative annual international or franchise competitions to hold them up.
If your sport has an established World Cup, that should be enough. Sure, there’s the mystique of competing at an event the size of the Olympic Games, but would that trump the glory and tradition built upon the Cricket World Cup? Would you rather the BlackCaps won a Cricket World Cup, or an Olympic gold medal? Would it feel the same for you? And if the answer is yes, I hope you regularly reflect on the 1998 Commonwealth bronze as a highlight of New Zealand Cricket triumphs.
There’s talk around cricket being at the 2028 Olympics, scheduled for that cricketing hotspot, Los Angeles. What would cricket at the Olympics look like? Recent social media scuttlebutt of including a T10 format is near pointless. If anything, T20 should be the format. That’s meant to be the vehicle to bring people into the sport. Halving that again, mostly in the interest of logistics and time management, even further removes it from the core of the sport it’s supposed to be representing.
There’s an example set by Sevens Rugby. A shorter format of the more traditional game, it’s already established, offers a legitimate competition pathway post-Olympics, and is not too much of a sidestep for those playing the longer format who are skilled enough to excel in (or elbow their way into) the shorter format of the game.
Cricket will step back into the ‘large multi-sport event’ realm in 2022 at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, when Women’s T20 will feature. This puts me personally at a crossroads, as I want to see the women’s game grow. The difference with the Commonwealth Games level is that cricket is largely a Commonwealth sport. Countries taking part in Birmingham will be those with established cricketing networks and resources, so youngsters inspired to pick up a bat or ball will immediately have a place to go and be supported.
Perhaps my arm could be twisted if Olympic cricket followed football’s lead and was for the under-23 level only. Or if the game grows globally through franchise T20 competitions, and there was legitimate reason to think that the event wouldn’t just be a World Cup by another name.
But I doubt it. It’s been 120 years since cricket was at Olympic level, with it last being contested in the 1900 Games. The game now has two World Cups and a Test Championship. It hasn’t suffered without the Olympics, and the Olympics certainly hasn’t missed cricket.
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