The Olympic fever has been gripping cricket-crazy country India for last few days. On Friday, almost the entire nation came together to support PV Sindhu in her quest for the gold; a sight mostly observed during important cricket matches. It was as if cricket had made its way to the Olympics. Though there is still no clarity on whether cricket will be a part of 2024 Olympics, the fans must not forget that cricket did make an appearance at Olympics — its first and last — in 1900. ALSO READ: Cricket in Olympics 2024?
Yes, it may sound alien to many, but cricket was indeed a part of Olympics. It had been shortlisted as an event at the first modern Olympics, the 1896 Summer Olympics, but was removed from the main games due to insufficient number of entries. Four years later, at the Paris Games, there was again a shortage of entries and inclusion of cricket seemed difficult. With four initial entries, it was supposed to go ahead in the main event. But with Belgium and the Netherlands withdrawing their entries after their bids to co-host the games fell through, only Great Britain and the host nation, France were left.
Thus, with only two teams in the fray, the first match became the final match. It was played on August 19 and 20 as a two-day match between Great Britain and France; two teams which were not selected nationally. While the British side was a touring club, the Devon and Somerset Wanderers, the French team was represented by French Athletic Club Union, which mainly comprised of British expatriates living in Paris. Interestingly, the members of these clubs were mostly English workmen who were in Paris to build the Eiffel Tower. Three players came from the Organising Committee. ALSO READ: Tendulkar and Warne bat for Twenty20 cricket’s inclusion in Olympics.
Batting first, Great Britain, the better between the two sides (they had two First-Class cricketers) scored 117 in their first innings. In reply France were bowled out for 78, thus conceding a lead of 39 runs. In their second outing, the British side scored 5 for 145 and decided to declare their innings on the same score, setting France a target of 185 to win. Though the target was not exactly insurmountable, France’s amateur team did not inspire enough confidence in the first innings.
The second innings turned out to be a disaster for France, as they were bowled out for a paltry 26. Thus, the first and the only cricket tournament at Olympics was won by Great Britain in style, by a massive margin in the context of the game of 158 runs. However, the win came only five minutes before the closure of play. The winning team was awarded silver medals and the French team was given bronze medals along with miniature statues of the Eiffel Tower. The match did not get official status for a long time and it was formally recognised as being an Olympic contest only in 1912, with the medals being upgraded to gold and silver. Interestingly, even the teams did not realise that they had competed in the Olympic Games, as the match was advertised as part of the world’s fair.