CHENNAI: Cricket in Olympics means a couple of definite medal prospects for India. But guess who has strongly opposed the idea? India itself.
Cricket was last played in the Olympics in the 1900 Paris Games and now the International Cricket Council (ICC) is pushing for a return of the T20 variant of the sport in the 2024 event, likely to take place at the French capital again. But for that to happen, the ICC needs the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), a firm believer of cricket being a non-Olympic sport, on board. And, this time too, most of the BCCI officials are not ready to play ball.
“We have heard about the ICC’s Olympics initiative but most members are not keen,” a senior BCCI functionary said.
The International Olympic Council (IOC) has made it clear to the ICC that there has to be an assurance of the top teams and players participating in the event -only then the bid can even be considered. It means that the ICC is not in a position to go ahead with the bid without India, the nerve-centre of world cricket. The Indian diaspora, too, is a huge market for the sport and that has to be tapped for cricket to have a chance of making the Olympic cut.
“The ICC is continuing to explore the possibility of cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics and the main thrust of that at present is on convincing the BCCI. But with everything that has happened there over the last few months, it has delayed the process,” a source close to the developments told TOI. The world body has approached the BCCI to take a call on the issue so that it can move forward with the bidding process, which will take place in September. Time is running out for the ICC but the Indian board, which has been mired in a legal tangle, has not made much of a headway. The court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), which has a final say on the day-to-day workings of BCCI, has asked for a report from the BCCI CEO Rahul Johri on the feasibility of cricket being part of the Olympics.
It was told that the final decision will be left to the members and if it comes to that, there will be some strong opposition. Many of the BCCI members feel that if cricket has to become an Olympic sport, the autonomy of the board will be compromised and they will have to come under the purview of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). “We don’t know what our status will be if we lose our autonomy. In the present situation, it is absolutely undesirable,” a senior board member said.
A section of the BCCI is also sore about the fact that they were handed a raw deal by the ICC in the revenue sharing model. “The BCCI has been treated very shabbily by the ICC in recent times. Now if they come to us for their own benefits, why would we comply? And we don’t even know about the financial aspect of such a big step,” the member added.
However, the board members understand that there is a strong sentiment in favour of cricket’s readmission in the Olympics. “We are not saying it’s completely ruled out, but a decision shouldn’t be forced upon us. It should be an independent, well-considered decision,” another official added.
The ICC, too, is hoping that a solution will emerge in the next one month and the success of the women’s World Cup in England could be one of the bargaining chips. Mithali Raj’s girls made the final and the BCCI has pledged for the growth of the women’s game in India. It is believed that the biggest boost for the women’s game will happen if the sport gets an entry into the Olympics.
“It certainly would play a big part in the growth of the women’s game -so there is an added attraction there,” an ICC source said.