Cricket, most likely under the twenty20 format, will make its Asian Games debut in Guangzhou after the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) accepted the sport at its recent meeting.
There was a strong lobby to include cricket at last year's Asian Games in Doha but the plan was dropped after India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh declined to send their top players.
''The chief executives of the four Test-playing Asian nations have orally pledged to send their best available teams to the Asian Games,'' Asian Cricket Council (ACC) media officer Shahriar Khan told Reuters today.
''It was based on this fact that the OCA agreed to include cricket in the list of sports.'' ACC Chief Executive Syed Ashraful Huq said taking the game to China would help raise the profile of the sport in the world's most populous nation as well as in other parts of Asia where cricket is less popular.
''Cricket will receive a major boost across Asia and in particular China as a result of this enlightened decision,'' said Huq.
''The ACC has pledged its support for the Guangzhou Games organisers in order to make this event a success.''
The Asian Games cricket competition is likely to feature eight teams - the four Test countries, hosts China and three qualifiers.
Khan said twenty20, the newest form of cricket in which each side bats for 20 overs, is the most practical format to adopt for a major multi-sport event.
''With eight teams, you could play two twenty20 games in a day and finish a whole tournament within four to five days,'' said Khan.
China already has plans to become a cricket giant and has set up a 20-year development programme in the hope of playing in the World Cup alongside teams such as Australia.
The ACC hopes having four world-class teams at the Asian Games would have a major impact on Chinese sports fans.
''Once China starts playing cricket or hosting events, of which the Guangzhou Games is a start, then cricket circuit around the world would increase tremendously,'' said Khan.
''There would be more opportunities to have triangular and quadrangular events, particularly in the southern part of China where the playing season is longer.''