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T10 will take cricket to Olympics: David Miller in Abu Dhabi

The world of cricket descends on the Abu Dhabi T10 League with the hope that this new format can solve cricket's popularity roadblock.

T10 will take cricket to Olympics: David Miller in Abu Dhabi

The Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi


Saketh Ayyagari

Updated: 24 Nov 2022 1:41 PM GMT

Abu Dhabi: In the deserts of United Arab Emirates - around 500km from the venue of the FIFA World Cup, the 'greatest show on Earth' - some of the greatest names from the world of cricket have gathered for a show of their own.

The sixth season of the Abu Dhabi T10 League, featuring Indian legends like Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina and international superstars like Andre Russell, David Miller, started here on Wednesday. One of the questions on everyone's minds as the league kicked off was when cricket could feature in a global event of similar stature, and whether the T10 format could be the solution.

"I am really hoping that T10 will kind of get to that stage (something as global as the FIFA World Cup). It is short and sharp, it is fast and exciting. So, it definitely has a chance to be in the Olympics," South African power hitter David Miller told The Bridge.

Not just Miller, the star of 2022 IPL-winning Gujarat Titans and now the vice-captain of Morrisville Samp Army at the Abu Dhabi T10 League, players and administrators from across the league were united in putting their hopes of global recognition for cricket through this newest and shortest format.

"Because it is a shorter game, and there is a shorter time span for the entire game to take place, this makes it very attractive for the tournament format, where you can play three games in a day, all on the same pitch. This makes it the perfect format for the game to go into the Commonwealth Games or Olympics," said Andy Flower, former Zimbabwe cricketer and T20 World Cup-winning England coach.

Flower, who is the head coach of Delhi Bulls in the Abu Dhabi T10 League, also touched upon a couple of important aspects - venue requirement and player workload.

"T10 does not need multiple venues, you can get through your round robin games quickly, it's not going to take too much out of the players but it is very competitive, it requires a high level of skill from both bowlers and batters," he explained.

Cricket's moment of truth looms

Cricket's inclusion in the Olympics has been a hot topic of debate for a while now. Despite its raging popularity in the Indian subcontinent - thus accounting for its viewership figures being comparable with other global sports like football - cricket has a following in only a fraction of the world's countries.

For cricket to develop a global footprint, it is essential that it is included in events like Olympics.

A week ago, the International Cricket Council (ICC) proposed a six-team T20 event at the Los Angeles Olympics 2028. Cricket is one of the nine sports under contention to be included, with a decision to be taken next year. This could be the hour of truth for the sport.

One of the reasons why cricket has not featured in any Olympic edition since 1900 is the challenge of logistics and scheduling. Even an average T20 game requires close to three-and-half hours for completion. No Olympic sport, with the exception of golf, takes up that amount of time in one day. Even time-consuming sports like sailing, curling and gymnastics do not go on for as long as a T20 match.

This is where T10 could rescue cricket from a lifetime of obscurity.

"T10 is the format that could be the most desirable product for cricket to be a part of future Olympics", said Abu Dhabi T10 League COO Rajeev Khanna.

"If you see any other sport at the Olympics, they are of a short span, be it football, hockey, no sport in Olympics is beyond 90 minutes, and T10 is that sort of a format," he added.

This sentiment was echoed by US-based Indian businessman, Mr Ritesh Patel, who owns one of the two new teams in the Abu Dhabi T10 League this season - Morrisville Samp Army (New York Strikers being the other). Patel is deeply involved with cricket in the United States, coincidentally where the Olympics are going to take place in 2028.

While T20 is the format being proposed by ICC, Mr Patel believes T10 has a better chance.

"In Olympics, no one wants to watch four-five-hour games. They were really looking for a shorter format and this is the short format which can make it to Olympics for sure, sooner or later," he emphatically said.

The T10 format, laughed away as a joke a few years ago, has been on a rampaging run in the recent past. Following the Abu Dhabi league, there will be another T10 League starting in Sri Lanka next year. This will also see a women's edition. Becoming an Olympic sport carries an extra layer of prestige. Could T10 be the vehicle to take cricket beyond its popularity roadblock?

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