Hearts fluttered when a report recently surfaced on social media that cricket’s bid for inclusion into the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games had been scuppered.
That has proven to be a false alarm, at least for now, with no final decision expected until the the International Olympic Committee session in Mumbai later in the year. Cricket faces fierce competition, including from popular American sports baseball/softball.
“We are still on track and there is confidence that cricket will be included for the L.A. Olympics,” a source close to the situation told me, adding that Olympic decision makers could be swayed by cricket’s status as arguably the second biggest sport in the world.
All-powerful India cricket boss Jay Shah’s inclusion into the Olympic working group is perhaps instructive and his influential presence adds heft to the bid at a crucial juncture as the clock ticks.
“His inclusion confirms that India are supportive of the bid,” said the source.
Cricket’ sole appearance at the Olympics was at the 1900 Games in Paris, which featured just two teams, and its reinclusion has been stymied throughout the years mostly due to reticence from India’s mighty governing body for various reasons.
But they’ve had a change of heart as evidenced by Shah’s inclusion in the working group, which is headed by ICC chair Greg Barclay and also includes independent director Indra Nooyi, former USA Cricket president Paraag Marathe and Zimbabwe Cricket chair Tavengwa Mukuhlani.
The working group has been tweaked several times since its original formation in late 2020 with Shah replacing Mahinda Vallipuram, who recently lost his position on the board as an Associate member director but still holds an influential role at the Asian Cricket Council.
It further strengthens Shah’s status as the most powerful administrator in cricket and he doubles as the boss of Asian Cricket Council which is amid a renewal. He was also the powerbroker behind the scenes of the recent ICC chair election, according to sources, resulting in Shah taking over the all-important finance and commercial affairs committee.
But, according to sources, a lot of the lead on the Olympic bid has been through the ICC management which, as reported, has recommended six-team T20 events for both men and women competitions at the 2028 Olympics.
Under the proposal, the top six in the ICC’s men’s and women’s T20 rankings on a cut-off date would receive Olympic qualification. The small pool of teams is due to the IOC’s efforts in slimming down costs and keeping within participation quotas.
There had been a push from some Associates for the fast-rising 90-minute T10 format to be part of an Olympic bid but it was not seriously contemplated, according to sources, with the truncated format not officially recognized by the ICC.
There are still those within the ICC board, according to sources, who prefer eight teams per gender to be part of the Olympic bid, as was originally envisioned.
But, ultimately, everyone seems to be on the same page in understanding that Olympic inclusion can foster genuine global growth in cricket.
“The Olympics provides a global profile and a platform to create new fans,” Marathe, a senior administrator at the San Francisco 49ers, told me previously. “It’s an opportunity to put cricket at a much different level.”
An update on cricket’s Olympic bid is expected at the ICC’s board meeting in March.