"a chance for more fans around the world to enjoy our fantastic sport."
On October 16, 2023, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that cricket will be one of the sports at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.
This will mark the sport’s return to the Olympics after 128 years.
This came after a historic IOC session in Mumbai, which was attended by Narendra Modi.
The Prime Minister underlined India’s growing prowess in sports before putting in a pitch for the country to host the 2036 Olympics.
India is poised to play a crucial role as one of the six teams representing cricket at the 2028 Olympics.
To turn this into reality, the IOC is collaborating with the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Over the last two years, ICC developed a proposal to facilitate this inclusion. However, it also entails mandatory doping tests for the Indian men’s cricket team.
The Olympics has an estimated three billion viewers across television and digital platforms. This offers an opportunity for cricket to shine on the global stage and potentially reach a wider audience.
We explore how cricket at the Olympics could make the sport truly global.
History of Cricket at the Olympics
The only time cricket featured in the Olympics was in 1900 when the only event, men’s cricket, was won by Great Britain, with France claiming silver.
But at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, both men’s and women’s cricket matches will be contested in the T20 format.
Former captain of the Indian women’s team Mithali Raj said:
“It is so exciting that cricket is now an Olympic sport and will make its return at LA28.
“Players will get the chance to compete for an Olympic gold medal and be part of the games which will be so special.
“It’s also a chance for more fans around the world to enjoy our fantastic sport.”
Cricket’s return to the Olympics means that the ICC will have to reschedule the cricketing calendar, which is currently packed with events like the Ashes as well as ICC tournaments, including the ODI and T20 World Cups.
ICC Chairman Greg Barclay said: “We are thrilled that cricket’s inclusion in the LA28 Olympic Games was confirmed by the IOC Session today.
“To have an opportunity to showcase our great sport at the LA28 Games and hopefully, many Olympic Games to come will be great for the players as well as the fans.”
Cricket’s Current Popularity
Cricket’s induction in the Olympics is expected to raise its global profile, especially because only 12 countries play all formats.
The ICC may have 108 members but cricket’s popularity largely depends on its mass appeal in the Indian subcontinent, Oceania, South Africa and England.
Cricket is also prominent in many Caribbean sovereign states but different teams do not represent their respective countries on the international stage.
Instead, players from 15 Caribbean nations and territories make up the West Indies.
This consists of Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, the United States Virgin Islands, St Lucia, St Maarten, the British Virgin Islands, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Montserrat.
Can the Olympics take Cricket to Newer Territories?
Inclusion in the Olympics will offer the ICC a chance to present the sport in front of a vast spectrum of audiences spread across different geographical locations.
For example, cricket hardly has any presence in the Americas – either North or South, as it isn’t a major sport in the US or Canada despite a large population of Indian-origin people in these developed nations.
In South America, the situation could be much worse, as not many would be aware if a sport like cricket even existed.
After all, football has a massive presence.
Unlike Test matches, which can last five days, football can last a maximum of just over two hours.
With T20 cricket, the duration of a match is nowhere near as long, which has increased its popularity.
Cricket has even caught the attention of the Chinese, who are now looking at developing world-class infrastructure for the sport in the country.
This is where cricket’s Olympic journey could lift the sport up and take it to markets where it has never found a foothold.
It is not just increased popularity in different countries. Cricket at the Olympics could also attract a wider demographic of fans.
Cricket writer Joy Bhattacharjya said:
“With this move, the Olympic Association wants to see how popular the sport will become when introduced at that level, which is good.
“It could prove to be as important as what ICC did when it made T20 an international competition.”
“Team India will also have to sign up with the World Anti Doping Agency to become complaint within the next four years.”
Cricket at the Olympics will also open endless possibilities for commercial tie-ups in countries where the sport currently has hardly any presence.
But as cricket grows in popularity in newer nations, more teams and players will join the existing sides and cricketers to make it a global sport like football, which is played in over 200 countries.
Once cricket appears in the Olympics, governments where it is not so popular right now may opt to invest in developing better facilities related to it, giving a major boost to the growth of the sport in their nations.
And in countries where cricket is already popular, this move will unlock new horizons.
Jay Shah, Secretary for The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), said:
“The board anticipates that this will yield significant financial dividends.
“It will have a profound positive impact on the sport’s ecosystem.
“It will fuel infrastructural development, intensify competition, foster youth development, and create opportunities for officials, volunteers, and skilled professionals.”
Although cricket will not be at the Olympics until 2028, the fact that it is returning to the largest global sports event can only mean good things.
The sport is extremely popular in certain countries like India, where over one hundred fans can pack into a stadium to watch a match.
Cricket at the Olympics is bound to draw in new fans, especially because it will be played in the fast-paced T20 format.
It will be interesting to see how the sport does in Los Angeles and how popular it becomes as a result.