The ICC agrees to award international status to all bilateral T20 games and opens up the possibility of bringing cricket to the 2028 Olympics in LA.
By Venu Palaparthi
“The T20 format we always knew was the vehicle for growing the game and transforming the game from being a sport played by a few countries to a truly global sport," ICC chief executive Dave Richardson said after the global governing body met in Kolkata this past week.
That also brought into the realm of possibility the ICC’s ultimate goal of globalizing the game and introducing T20 cricket to the Olympics. "Assuming that we can get all of cricket united in a desire to be a part of Olympics, then I think we would have a very good chance in persuading the IOC that cricket is a sport that can add value to the Olympics going forward," Richardson told reporters.
In past discussions, the ICC had indicated that BCCI objected to such a plan. “We would like to urge the BCCI to have a look at it again and support the main body of boards that would like to get into the Olympics as soon as possible,” Richardson had previously stated. The Kolkata meeting sorted that out. “Well the BCCI representative attended the board meeting and the vote was passed unanimously. So I don’t think that’s an issue,” Richardson told the reporters.
ICC's current cycle of tournaments and accompanying TV broadcast rights contract ends in 2023, which is why the Kolkata developments are significant. Even if the schedule that the ICC agreed upon will be a bit muddled as we go into 2023, the tough decisions that were made allow the ICC to plan ahead for the 2023-2028 cycle.
Pic Left: Cricket was last played at the Olympics in 1900 (Paris).
"I think this decision can only help us in our move or application to the International Olympic Committee for the right to participate in the Olympics going forward," Richardson told reporters. “We can't go to Paris. But we have continued our talks with IOC and with LA in due course, hopefully by 2028 we will have cricket in the Olympics." That effectively gives the ICC 10 years to inject T20 cricket into the Olympics.
On the final day of the ICC meetings in Kolkata, the ICC also announced that there was “unanimous agreement to award all T20 bilateral games international status and the move to create a global ranking system for T20Is.” The ICC described its plans to introduce a set of minimum standards to make it as easy as possible for Members to play international cricket in a sustainable and affordable way.
All Member women's teams will be awarded T20I status from July 1 onwards, whilst all Member men's teams will be awarded T20I status from January 1, 2019 following the cut-off point for qualification to the ICC World T20 2020. Rankings for women and men will commence October 2018 and May 2019 respectively.
In order to participate in the World T20, a member must be among the top 16 teams. The sub-regional, regional and global qualification process every two years will also give more regular T20 cricket to more members. And the fact that all of these games will have international status would enhance their appeal to sponsors.
From an Olympics perspective, the IOC has generally been reluctant to go over a limit of 11,000 athletes at the games. But given the popularity of cricket, these objections could perhaps be surmounted. However, the ICC has already hinted that only a limited number of teams may be allowed in Los Angeles.
With each passing day, USA Cricket’s goal becomes increasingly clear. USA Men and Women must aim for a top 16 ranking by 2020 and strive to get into the World T20 in 2021. From there, the teams must continually improve their ranking with each successive T20 World Cup cycle going into 2028. USA Cricket has a 10 year runway to execute this plan. If it succeeds, it will have a ticket to the LA Olympics in 2028. That will bring with it a lot of visibility and of course, a host of other advantages such as money, stadium infrastructure and grounds. If it doesn't, perhaps it will still benefit from the introduction of the sport to Olympics, but it will be reduced to a spectator as others play in its own backyard.
Picture Courtesy: ICC