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'India-less' return of cricket to 2022 Asian Games?

India-less return of cricket to 2022 Asian Games?

Saksham Mishra

Published: 10 March 2019 9:26 AM GMT
The BCCI would never want to be under the aegis of the Indian Olympic Association and hence the board is not expected to facilitate the inclusion of cricket in the Asian Games or the Olympics. Let's put it this way, if BCCI is an MNC and cricket is a project, the board ain't interested in any joint ventures. Cricket was a part of the Asian Games in 2010 and 2014 edition in Guangzhou and Incheon, respectively. At the Guangzhou Asiad, Bangladesh beat Afghanistan to win cricket's first Asiad Gold. "The cricket event was the most watched televised event in 2010 and 2014, not in China or in South Korea, but around the world. Such is the passion for the game in the subcontinent that even if an Under-23 India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka team is sent, their countrymen will watch it,”
Syed Ashraful Huq, former Asian Cricket Council's (ACC's) CEO said. However, the BCCI did not show any real interest in promoting the game and did not send a team. Hence, the move panned and cricket was chucked out from the 2018 Asiad. Apart from cricket, sports like skateboarding, kurash and belt wrestling were also removed from the 2018 Asian Games as the number of events contested were slashed from 493 to 431 by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). Now with the rise of other Asian teams such as Afghanistan, Nepal and UAE, cricket in the Asian Games provides a feasible option, with or without India.
Hence, cricket has found a place in the Asiad once again.

Preferred format - T20, T10, 100-ball ?

Cricket was earlier played in the Asian Games in the T20 format. However, the format still takes around three and a half hours which is relatively longer as compared to most field games which fold up in one or one and a half hours. This presents a case for the T10 format, whose second season was recently played in the UAE or the hundred-ball format which his being pushed by the England Cricket Board.

BCCI's stand on the issue

The BCCI has not confirmed whether they would send a team to the Games or not but the initial reactions don't inspire a lot of confidence. "The 2022 Games are still more than three years away. Hopefully, by then we’ll have an elected Apex Council in place and then we can take a call on whether we can take part in the event,” a BCCI official said. The attitude of the cricket board for the inclusion of the cricket in the Olympics has also been largely disappointing. That being said, the BCCI gives its own reasons for not entertaining the prospect. Their argument is that that inclusion of cricket in the Asian games or Olympics might dilute the importance of the ICC T20 World Cup, T20 being the expected format for multi-nation, multi-sports tournaments. However, that logic seems flawed. Football, the world's most popular sport, hosts both events and both are keenly followed.

The actual problem

The real reason behind it is that BCCI is an autonomous body and keeps it's autonomy very dear to itself. After a long battle, they finally had to come under the purview of the RTI Act after the ruling of the Central Information Commission in October 2018. If the Indian cricket team participates either in the Asian Games or in the Olympics, the BCCI would have to come under the aegis of the Indian Olympic Association which is something they would never want. Apart from autonomy, what puts the BCCI off is the revenue sharing. There would be a lot of stakeholders in a multi-sports event and the BCCI would have to share its fortune with the IOA, the ICC and the OCA. India is not only the world leader but also the market leader in cricket, owing to the basic fact that we are a population of 1.3 billion people. There are not as many eyeballs in the world anywhere as they are in India. Also, there is a huge Indian diaspora settled in various countries across the globe and they too, just like Indians, are crazy about cricket. Hence, India and its board, the BCCI, becomes an influential body. And with that influence and power, comes responsibility. There is an obvious need to globalise the sport. As it is, as opposed to just 12 Test playing nations, 32 countries contested in the football World Cup last year. But, that's clearly not happening in the current scenario. So, unless there is a lot of pressure on the BCCI or the Government of India decides to step in, the chances of India being a force that pushes cricket either in the Asian Games or in the Olympics does not seem realistic, at least in the coming decade or two.
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