Twenty20 sets Olympic berth as next target

Published: Saturday, June 19, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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London:The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) hope the popularity of short-form Twenty20 cricket may lead to its inclusion in the Olympics especially if London's bid for the 2012 Games is successful.

England are due to test the international waters with the shortened format by playing a fixture against Australia at the Rose Bowl in Southampton during next season's Ashes tour.

Women's cricket is scheduled to stage the first-ever Twenty20 international when England play New Zealand at Hove this August.

The ECB are so enamoured with the 20-overs-a-side competition that they made a representation to the International Cricket Council (ICC) to employ Twenty20 in their own Olympic bid.

The game's world governing body are hoping that cricket will be recognised as an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Cricket made its debut in the Olympics more than 100 years ago in the Paris Games of 1900 when Great Britain beat France in the final but it has never featured since then.

Twenty20 was introduced by the ECB in English cricket last year to broaden the appeal of the game since it could be played in less than three hours and was packed with excitement throughout.

The experiment was regarded as an unqualified success with more than 2,50,000 spectators watching overall and an average gate of more than 5,000.

The ECB chief executive Tim Lamb said at the competition's launch at Lord's in London: "The ECB is exploring the possibility of having Twenty20 as an Olympic sport.

He added: "We are aware that the ICC are in discussions with the IOC about Olympic status and we have had a preliminary discussion with the ICC about the possibility of them making the case for Twenty20 to be incorporated into the 2012 Olympics, particularly if London's bid for that year is successful. Or if that is too soon for the IOC timetable then further down the line.

"The ICC have expressed initial interest and a willingness to explore the issue further if there is a clear desire to do so within the international cricket community."

Following its successful introduction in England last year, Twenty20 cricket will also spread to South Africa for their forthcoming season.

The Pakistan and Sri Lanka Boards have also contacted Lord's seeking information about the rules, regulations and marketing.

In its second season the English version will feature for the first time umpires in communication with television commentators to explain their decisions to the viewers.

In addition, quarter-finals have been brought in for the best two teams from each of the three regional groups as well as the two best third-placed sides. Edgbaston will replace Trent Bridge as the venue for the final.

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