As the eyes of the world turn to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics next month, there is a glaring omission from the list of sports that will be played- cricket.
Indeed, cricket’s only appearance at the Olympics was a solitary match between a French team and a British team in 1900.
The game has evolved since then and the advent of Twenty20 cricket provides a perfect opportunity for cricket to return.
Cricket is one of the world’s most popular sports and its inclusion would help the Olympic spirit spread into subcontinental Asia.
It would assist the growth of the game into new countries with the possibility of it becoming a truly global game in the long-term.
T20 has already attracted new audiences and would further do so if given a place on the biggest stage.
Governments with strong Olympic programs would provide more funding to cricket and that could see the game become more popular in new countries.
It would be a unique opportunity to grow the women’s game even further as it would receive more government funding in places that the women’s game has struggled to break the monopoly of the men’s game.
The inclusion of cricket at the Olympics would allow a number of nations a realistic chance to compete for a medal having been unable to do so in other sports.
Despite a population of over 1 billion people, India has only ever won nine gold medals. Pakistan just three.
Sri Lanka has only managed to win two silver medals.
Olympic cricket would give these countries a new chance for glory.
It would also see the West Indies competing as island nations for the first time and many of them would be competitive as well.
There would obviously be logistical issues to overcome and cricket specific venues might mean that the cost of hosting the Olympics rises, though that cost would be offset by new television deals as the games reached new audiences.
It’s also worth noting that T20 cricket is more versatile than the longer formats and is already played at nontraditional cricket venues.
Drop-in pitches and moveable stands could be utilised to keep costs down and not leave a legacy of unusable venues in host countries where cricket isn’t a popular sport.
In an attempt to avoid fixture congestion for the top international teams, Olympic cricket could be played as an under 23 tournament like men’s football is, or perhaps limited to players with limited international experience.
That would give the top teams a chance to blood younger players while allowing the lesser teams the chance to strengthen.
The prospect of more top-quality teams in the future could only be a good thing for cricket.
Cricket at the Olympics wouldn’t just be about giving new countries the chance to win a medal, it would mean a new sense of inclusion for different parts of the world.
It would leave a legacy of greater participation and equality in the sport. Precisely what the Olympic spirit is about.