23/04/2024
The Gabba Brisbane 2032

Queensland's home of cricket The Gabba will play a huge part during the Brisbane 2032 games (credit @gabbabrisbane twitter)

Cricket is the second biggest sport worldwide. It is time for Olympic Cricket to become part of the games and Brisbane 2032 is the best option

Opinion: Cricket is one of the world’s biggest sports, with an estimated 2.5 billion fans worldwide. The Olympic games are the world’s biggest sporting event, with 3.2 billion viewers across the 2016 games. It is time for one of the world’s greatest sports to join the world’s most extraordinary sporting event. With Brisbane recently announced as the 2032 hosts of the games, cricket is a no-brainer for the games.

Cricket’s first and only appearance at the Olympics was at the 1900 Paris games. The 1900 competition was very different from anything that would be seen in 2032. Only two countries in England and France were represented, with the English winning the two-day match by 138 runs.

Over the last decade, efforts to bring cricket back to the Olympics have ramped up significantly. Many of the world’s most influential people have backed cricket at the Olympics.

“Inclusion in the Olympics would be phenomenal for the globalisation of the game – both in terms of participation and fan engagement.” Clare Connor, the head of women’s cricket in England, told the Guardian in 2017.

Cricket at Los Angeles 2028

Recently the BCCI changed its mind on cricket at the Olympics, primarily due to Indian government pressure. The Indian Government feels as if the country is underperforming at the Olympics and cricket. The Government hopes that the inclusion of cricket will allow the country to claim more gold. At a recent apex meeting, the BCCI agreed to send cricket to the Olympics, with the goal being LA 2028.

An unnamed former ICC official told Forbes,

“The IOC has courted cricket for a long time because they recognise a gap in South Asia, where the Olympics doesn’t resonate like in other countries.”

While it seems the BCCI, ICC and IOC are keen on a 2028 re-introduction, 2028 is not the best option. One of the main goals would be to expand the sport into different countries like the United States. However, playing the game on substandard pitches in a country that hasn’t hosted a major international tournament is fraught with danger.

While the United States has made huge moves in recent years regarding cricket. It isn’t at the level of the Test-playing nations as of yet. The United States is still considered an associate member of the ICC, a status held since 1965, targeting full membership by the year 2030.

The United States Minor League Cricket will kick off on the 31st of July, in the United States’ most significant contribution to world cricket. The 27-team competition will showcase the best of US cricket. Importantly for the 2028 Olympics, six teams from California will enter. This would give audiences a taste of potential venues and facilities if a 2028 cricket bid were successful.

USA cricket is hoping The Minor League Cricket will launch America’s Cricket ambitions forward

While the United States and the different cricket councils are to be applauded, if current cricket fans genuinely want the game to grow and expand throughout the world, we would surely be better off attempting a more immense, more grand competition at Brisbane 2032. Australia already has the facilities and a proven track record of hosting top-quality world cricket events.

A potential Olympic format

While it seems inevitable that the Olympics will see cricket again one day, whether it’s 2028 or 2032, a huge question remains. What will the format of the competition be? Forbes has recently reported that the ICC is favouring a T20 format for the Olympics. T20 games can be finished in four hours, meaning up to three games a day are possible without overlap.

The ICC will have to work with the IOC on how to make this competition different from a regular T20 World Cup. At the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, a 16-team tournament was completed.

The last time cricket featured on a similar world stage was the 1998 Commonwealth games

Cricket will return at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games with an 8 team Women’s competition to take place after a joint bid from the ICC and the ECB to the Commonwealth Games Federation. The ICC has confirmed that each match will have confirmed Twenty20 International status.

While the 8 team format seems the most likely option, there remains scope for a 16 team competition. It was a format that worked well, although it would need to be tweaked slightly for the Olympics.

To avoid the already dominant cricketing countries of India, England, and Australia dominating the sport, I would suggest something similar to Football at the Olympics. To keep the sport competitive and enjoyable I would recommend the following.

  • The top eight ranked ICC T20 teams would be represented by a majority of players under 23 years of age, with two players to be over this age. These top eight teams would automatically qualify for the tournament, along with the host nation. England, Scotland, and Wales would compete as one nation, with Northern Irish players choosing between team GB or Ireland.

  • The West Indies would be represented by one country, which would be chosen through a qualifying tournament of the islands that make up the WICB. This winning nation would then automatically qualify in the top eight.

  • Two teams from each region would be selected to fill the eight remaining teams based on performance in a regional qualifier. These teams would also have the luxury of choosing any players not just under 23’s to keep the competition more balanced. Two teams would be selected from the following regions, Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

  • The format of the competition would be a traditional four-group pool. Each group would have two teams go through to the quarterfinals, with winners moving onto semi-finals and the final. The competition would also require a bronze medal match. This format would mean that 32 games would be played in total. To fit this into the approximate 16 days of the Olympics, two games per day would need to be played. Two games a day is more than achievable on the many international cricket grounds of the Brisbane area.

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Which Brisbane 2032 grounds to use

With the recent announcement of a much-needed billion-dollar upgrade to the Gabba. The Olympics are set to be hosted in a world-class stadium. Unfortunately, with this announcement, it looks unlikely that cricket would be played on the ground. The Gabba will be used as the central Olympic Stadium, and it would simply be impossible for the ground to host cricket simultaneously.

Currently, the biggest and best stadium in Queensland outside the Gabba is Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast. The Carrara ground was the host stadium of the 2018 Commonwealth Games and would be perfect for hosting Olympic cricket. The Ground is situated in the Gold Coast zone in the outlined plan in the 2032 proposal.

Metricon would be a perfect home for an Olympic cricket final. The issue is that 32 games on one ground over two weeks would be impossible. More grounds would be needed.

Allan Border Field is another excellent oval that has hosted Women’s International matches regularly too in recent seasons. With some redevelopment, could become a fantastic centre for cricket at the Olympics, especially during the group stages. Another field that could be used is Ian Healy Oval. It was recently redeveloped into a first-class quality ground and would be an excellent field for games that would attract smaller crowds.

Metricon Stadium has hosted International Cricket previously along with several W/BBL Games. Image: @MetriconStadium. Twitter

A different and more ambitious idea would be the redevelopment of the Brisbane Showgrounds into a Cricket stadium. This is a ground steeped in history. It was where Donald Bradman made his test debut. It would be a fantastic gesture to crickets past to bring the game full circle with cricket returning to the Olympics.

What Olympic cricket would bring to the world

While cricket is currently a global sport, there is a clear gap between the top 10 countries and the rest. This gap has almost brought a level of arrogance from higher-ranked countries. But such is the power of T20 Cricket and the Olympic games, it gives us sporting and cricket fans to be introduced to these smaller cricket-playing nations and different players from all around the globe. Giving them their time in the sun to shine.

Remember back in 2019 when Romanian Pavel Florin went viral for his bowling? While the bowling left something to be desired, those who love cricket and want to see it succeed were encouraged by a native Romanian taking up the sport and the joy he exuded by playing it and representing his country.

The Olympics would bring this joy to the world.

Funding is an issue that smaller nations consistently face when it comes to cricket. Bigger countries such as the United States can combat this with private deals, but that is not possible for many African and Asian nations. Currently, the ICC is set to give 160 million US dollars to the 93 associate countries over eight years.

If cricket were to become an Olympic sport, governments would fund the sport to an enormous degree in the hope of winning medals. For instance, the GASC, the authority responsible for Chinese Olympic preparation, received 651 million dollars from the Government in 2016 alone. If just some of this money were added to cricket, the sport would explode in quality and popularity throughout China.

Germany is another exciting story. In 2017, before the ICC’s new funding model, the German cricket teams received 150,000 UK pounds a year in funding. If this were to become an Olympic sport, cricket would automatically receive an extra 750,000 pounds a year. It would completely change the facilities and change the lives of many of countries cricketers.

Johnny Grave, CEO of the WICB, told the Guardian in 2017, “We are supportive of cricket joining the Olympics. I see it as a crucial step in growing the game globally – especially in our region as well as the major ‘markets of the USA and China. We hope that the T20 format and growth of the women’s game strengthens cricket’s case for re-joining the Olympics.”

Romanian superstar Pavel Florin is an associate cricket superstar

The Olympics need cricket at Brisbane 2032

A criticism of the Olympics has been that the events are too similar and that there aren’t enough showcase events. Cricket would provide something different for the world. It is the second most popular sport globally and would be appointment viewing for almost a billion fans.

Brisbane 2032 offers the opportunity for the Olympics and the ICC to make a symbiotic beneficial deal. Brisbane is the obvious standout versus Los Angeles to be the host of cricket’s return to the games.

 If cricket is to be added to the 2032 games, The interest from around the world will increase dramatically. This interest would particularly be increased in India and the other subcontinental countries, an area which the IOC has identified as lagging behind the rest of the world for Olympic support and competitiveness.

Over the next few months, the International Olympic Committee will host board meetings and the ANOC General Assembly on the 26th of October. As part of these meetings, crickets place at the Olympics will be discussed. If Los Angeles is not successful in hosting cricket during the 2028 games, Brisbane 2032 will be an excellent place to restart Crickets’ journey at the Olympics.

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