'Cricket in Olympics' movement gathers strength

Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 7:00 [IST]
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Beijing: When veteran Chinese leader Zhou Enlai was asked in the early 1970s what he thought of the impact of the French Revolution of 1789, he replied: "It is too early to say."

How much harder then to speculate on the future.

And when it came to cricket's possible inclusion as an Olympic sport, International Cricket Council (ICC) president David Morgan, in Beijing for the ongoing Games, weighed his words with a care that would have appealed to both Zhou and the opening batsman deciding on what to play and what to leave.

It is not so much too early as too easy to say that while Adam Gilchrist is in favour of Twenty20 cricket, the shortest international form of the game, becoming an Olympic sport and Ian Chappell is very much against, Morgan is very much sat on the fence.

Unlike the two Australians, Morgan leads a large multi-national organisation which finds it difficult to make decisions without the consent of its most powerful members, who do not always see eye-to-eye.

Add in the fact that the earliest likely date for the return of cricket, which did feature in the 1900 Games, to the Olympics is 2020 and Morgan's caution is all the more understandable.

Cricket's rulers are often accused of being obsessed with money and one of the initial consequences of being recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), an organisation founded to promote lofty, amateur ideals, is a financial one.

"The important first step for the International Cricket Council was gaining recognition of the sport and of the council from the IOC," Morgan told AFP here.

"That is important particularly for many of our smaller nations because to belong to a sporting body that has recognition from the IOC improves their opportunity for funding," the Welshman added.

Morgan believes Twenty 20 would fit into the Olympic fortnight "without any difficulty whatsoever".

But with administrators already dealing with fixture clashes caused by the relentless milking of the still-young Twenty20 cash-cow, Morgan admitted trying to find space for yet another tournament - one whose date won't be set by a cricket official - was a potential barrier to Olympic participation.

"It is something that cricket has to think about very carefully," he said.

"This visit, these few days give us the opportunity to assess the potential for cricket becoming an Olympic sport."

He added: "2020 must be the earliest realistic date but I must emphasise the International Cricket Council has to consider its position just as the IOC has to consider its position."

Even though athletes are not paid directly for competing at the Olympics, former Australia wicket-keeper Gilchrist said they would jump at the chance to play in the Games.

"Cricketers won't care about the money. The chance to stand on top of the Olympic podium, to wear an Olympic gold medal and the pride of belting out your national anthem would be a life-changing money-can't-buy experience," he said in a column for Indian daily the Deccan Chronicle.

But legendary Australian captain Chappell said while the Olympics would be fine for a few fortunate players from the sport's top teams it would do nothing for cricket as a whole.

"Marching in an Olympic Games opening ceremony might give individual cricketers goosebumps," Chappell wrote in July's Cricinfo Magazine. "But as part of the evolution of the game, it wouldn't raise a pimple on the backside."


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