© Getty Images
T20 cricket has opened the possibilities for cricket in global sporting events. So far cricket has featured in one Olympics, one Commonwealth Games and two Asian Games © Getty Images

By Julien Fountain

It seems as if each time I start to write for PakPassion.net, there are simply too many hot topics to talk about. Last time it was new coaching staff for Pakistan, illegal bowling actions and court cases. This time is no different with the cricketing world witnessing a book launch and the corresponding claims and counter claims from all and sundry, another new “local as opposed to foreign” head coach hired in the subcontinent and the bowling action’s saga continues, gaining pace (if not the turn and bounce, with the vigorously enforced 15 degree limit) So, what to talk about this time…

Firstly, I must begin by reminding everybody about how well Korea did at the recent Asian Games T20 Men’s Competition. This was a group of players who had between 12 to 18 months of cricket playing each, so to make it into the quarter-finals against Sri Lanka, was really a great effort. Then to actually take eight wickets and restrict them to less than 180 was a huge achievement. Of course we were never going to win the game, but who could have predicted a Korean left-arm fast bowler, Park Taekwan, achieving figures of 4-0-16-4. There in itself is a reason Twenty20 cricket should be in the Olympics. There’s a thought . . .

Imagine if you will, a different world where T20 Cricket is now an Olympic event. The Top 20 medal-winning countries from London 2012 only included England (GBR in 3rd place), Australia (in 10th place) and New Zealand (in 15th place) in terms of full member nations and the only strong cricket playing associate nation represented in the top twenty was the Netherlands (in 13th place).

Now it could be argued that despite the majority of the major Olympic nations not having a cricket culture, what some do have, such as Korea, is a huge baseball culture; which as we have just proved conclusively at the Asian Games in Incheon, can be utilised to create a T20 cricket team. Instead picture the likes of USA, China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Netherlands, Cuba all of whom have professional baseball leagues. All of these countries have thousands of highly skilled bat and ball athletes.

Imagine if these countries who, after all, are in the habit of achieving medals across a range of diverse sports, were able to utilise their National Olympic Committee (NOC) funding and resources to put out a T20 Cricket team? Korea just did it at the Asian games and in just 12 months, with virtually no funding and no national support managed to beat China who had had support and development going back six-eight years, and play really well against Sri Lanka, an ICC full member nation.

Associate and Affiliate nations struggle to perform because they do not have the funding or cricket infrastructure that a full member nation does. NOC backing for these countries would go a huge way to leveling the global cricket playing field.

So where, I hear you ask, do the traditional Cricket “powerhouse” nations stand in terms of the global Olympic Sports movement? Well, using the London 2012 medal table as a measure of recent Olympic success; South Africa placed 23rd, Ireland placed 41st, India placed 55th and Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh failed to make it onto the medal table at all.

It would be a very interesting event to see a truly globalised T20 Cricket competition where former baseball players from the USA, Cuba, Japan or Korea pit their skills against the big three and their counterparts. Incidentally of the so called “Big Three” only one is represented in the “Olympic Big Three” from 2012 (GBR placed 3rd) and only two are in the top ten (GBR 3rd & Australia 10th). How different would it be to see the smaller Associates and Affiliates receive the same support from their much larger NOC’s, that is given to traditional Olympic sports within each country. An Olympic T20 Cricket tournament would truly be a “Global Cricket Event” with all the usual bias’s removed, and only the sport itself being important.

Anybody, who is truly in favour of the globalisation of the sport of cricket, should not have a problem with T20 Cricket becoming an Olympic event. The T20 format provides some of the best sporting characteristics and features for both spectators and competitors alike. T20 is truly a sports event that can be both played, and appreciated, far more widely than current audiences suggest. The old forgotten colonial ties are long gone; this is the modern era where both sport and big business are king.

The case against cricket becoming an Olympic event? Well, I will leave that for you to decide. It might be a financial issue, it might be an issue of power & dominance. What I will say is it would be very interesting to see some of the major cricket governing bodies sit amongst some of the major Olympic Associations such as the USA, China, Russia or Korea and then try to bulldoze their way through meetings or votes ! These countries might just meet their match both on and off the field!

(Julien Fountain a former fielding coach of Pakistan, was recently appointed as Head Coach of the South Korean national team. The above article is reproduced with permission from http://pakpassion.net/)