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Cricket debuts at Asian Games '06. Are Olympics next?
by Gulu Ezekiel
Jul 09, 2005
Trivia buffs by now would be familiar with the question: when was cricket part of the Olympic Games?

The answer of course is Paris, 1900 where a single match was staged between 'England' (represented by the Devon and Somerset County Wanderers club) and 'France' (actually made up of Britons based in France and going by the name of the USFSA club).

England won the two-day 12-a-side match staged on April 19 and 20, scoring 117 and 145 and France replying with 78 and 26.

Cricket and the Olympics are back in the news with London being awarded the 2012 Games. Lord's will host the archery event.

Cricket is also being introduced to the Asian Games in the next edition at Doha in 2006 and will possibly make a return to the Commonwealth Games when they are staged in New Delhi in 2010 (the first appearance at Kuala Lumpur in 1998 was something of a disaster).

There is also talk of cricket in the form of the 20/20 format currently played in England, Pakistan and South Africa making a comeback to the Olympics sometime in the future.

But there is another link between cricket and the Olympics in the form of cricketers who have donned their country's colours in other sports in this mega-sporting event staged every four years.

Back in the 30s', two Indian cricketers had their chance at Olympic glory.

Iftikar Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi (father of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi) was in the running for the Indian hockey team for the 1932 Berlin Olympics that would go onto retain the gold first won four years earlier at Amsterdam while MJ Gopalan (who played a solitary Test match in 1934) was a candidate for the 1936 Los Angeles Olympics having toured New Zealand with the national hockey squad the year before.

Gopalan however chose to go on the second official Indian tour to England in 1936 while the Nawab of Pataudi also opted out to play cricket, his moment of glory coming in English colours when he scored a century on debut in the first Test at Sydney on the 1932-33 tour of Australia under Douglas Jardine-the infamous 'Bodyline' series. He would also captain India on their 1946 tour of England.

Even though a number of first-class cricketers, mainly from England, South Africa and Australia have taken part in the Olympics over the years, only three Test cricketers are known to have participated--JWHT Douglas, a captain of England, Jack MacBryan (who played one Test for England and won hockey gold in 1920) and Australian batsman Brian Booth, who played 29 Tests including two as captain.

Douglas covered himself in glory by winning the gold medal in the middleweight boxing division at the 1908 London Olympics while Booth missed out on a medal as part of the Australian team in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics where India won their sixth straight gold medal.

Booth's fellow-countryman, Dr. Ric Charlesworth is a legendary name in the world of hockey and came pretty close to selection as a Test opening batsman, having played with some success for Western Australia in the domestic Sheffield Shield.

Now however with cricket being played the year round, it is highly doubtful if any international player would be part of the Olympics in the foreseeable future. Unless of course, cricket does manage to return as an Olympic discipline after more than a century.

Cricket fans however should not hold their breath waiting. The International Cricket Council (ICC) have already stated they are not particularly keen on the idea.

 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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  When Pietersen played in Duleep Trophy
  Foul language on the field of play
  Sachin Tendulkar was the one great unifier that brought the nation together
  The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India
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