Cricket officials hope the sport’s return to the Olympics can be the silver bullet the international game needs to fend off the threat of losing players to full-time franchise deals.
Confirmed on Monday as one of five new sports for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics, cricket will line up in LA alongside flag football, softball/baseball, lacrosse and squash.
The sport’s entry will mark its first fully fledged appearance as an Olympic event, with the only previous involvement a two-team contest between France and Great Britain in 1900.
There will be separate Twenty20 competitions for men and women, with six teams in each.
Qualifying is still to be confirmed but is likely to be based off International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings.
Cricket’s inclusion in the Olympic program comes as a clear lure for the Asian TV market.
It also comes at a critical juncture for the sport.
Questions remain around the future of the international game, with the ever-looming threat of 12-month franchise deals across multiple leagues from big-money owners.
Asked if Olympic inclusion could help ward off the threat of players deserting the international game, Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley said the development could only help.
“It’s another opportunity to represent your country on the world stage,” Hockley said.
“The next exciting thing for cricket is that there’s more money and there’s more investment coming into the game. The game is growing.
“Our recent (memorandum of understanding) with the players made sure our CA-contracted players remain among the best paid team-sports people in Australia.”
Cricket’s elevation to the Olympic stage raises further fears over the future of the 50-over game, with an even greater squeeze set to develop between the Test and T20 formats.
If Olympic qualification is based off rankings, it is likely nations will prioritise playing their biggest names in those bilateral series.
The ICC’s recent decision to scrap the ODI Super League means that current one-day international bilateral series have limited relevance.
“It’s all about context. The work we’re doing is to make sure that each of the bilateral series around the world builds to something,” Hockley said.
“Test cricket has now got more context with the World Test Championship.
“T20 will now have enormous context, not only to qualify for the T20 World Cup, but now to qualify for the Olympics.
“That’s our challenge for one-day cricket.”
Another issue will be around the sport’s cluttered calendar, and whether players place a greater value on an Olympic medal than the biennial T20 World Cup.
The 20-team T20 World Cup in 2028 will be held in Australia and New Zealand just three months after the conclusion of that year’s Olympics.
“They’ve both got a role, and a really clear role,” Hockley insisted.
“The T20 World Cup, with the expansion now from 16 teams to 20 teams, is an opportunity for all of the cricketing countries to be able to compete.
“What the Olympics provides in 2028, and hopefully ongoing beyond that, is an even further pinnacle for the top six teams.”
(Australian Associated Press)