Hearts fluttered when a message surfaced on social media recently that cricket’s bid to be included in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics had been scuttled.
That turned out to be a false alarm, at least for now, with a final decision not expected until the International Olympic Committee session in Mumbai later in the year.
“We are still on track and there is confidence that cricket will be included for the Los Angeles Olympics,” a source close to the situation told me, adding that Olympic decision-makers could be swayed by cricket’s status as perhaps the second biggest sport in the world.
The inclusion of the all-powerful Indian cricket boss Jay Shah in the Olympic task force is perhaps instructive and his influential presence adds weight to the bid at a crucial time when the clock is ticking.
“His inclusion confirms India’s support for the bid,” the source said.
Cricket’s only appearance at the Olympics was at the 1900 Games in Paris, where only two teams participated, and its re-inclusion has been hindered over the years mostly by reservations from India’s powerful governing body for various reasons.
But they have changed their minds, as evidenced by Shah’s inclusion in the task force, which is headed by ICC chairman Greg Barkley and also includes independent director Indra Nooyi, former USA Cricket president Paraagh Marathe and Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Tavengwa Mukulani .
The task force has been reshuffled several times since its initial formation in late 2020, with Shah replacing Mahinda Vallipuram, who recently lost his board position as associate member director but still holds an influential role in the Asian Cricket Council.
This further cemented Shah’s status as the most powerful administrator in cricket and he doubled up as the head of the Asian Cricket Council, which was in the process of being renewed. According to sources, he was also the behind-the-scenes broker of the recent ICC chairman election, which resulted in Shah taking charge of the all-important finance and trade committee.
But, according to sources, much of the lead in the Olympic bid has been through the ICC leadership, which has reportedly recommended six T20 team competitions for both men and women at the 2028 Olympics.
Under the proposal, the top six in the ICC men’s and women’s T20 rankings on a cut-off date would receive Olympic qualification. The small number of teams is due to the IOC’s efforts to reduce costs and meet participation quotas.
There was a push by some contributors for the fast-growing 90-minute T10 format to be part of an Olympic bid, but this was not seriously considered, according to sources, as the shortened format was not officially recognized by the ICC.
There are still people on the ICC board, according to sources, who favor eight gender teams to be part of the Olympic bid as originally envisaged.
But at the end of the day, everyone seems to be on the same page in understanding that the inclusion of an Olympic Games can foster real global growth in cricket.
“The Olympics provide a global profile and a platform to create new fans,” Maratte, a senior administrator with the San Francisco 49ers, told me previously. “This is an opportunity to take cricket to a much different level.”
An update on cricket’s Olympic bid is expected at the ICC board meeting in March.