Cricket could be played at future Olympics if the MCC World Cricket Committee gets its way.
The committee this week recommended that the sport should apply to be considered for future Games. Given how far in advance the participating sports are planned, the earliest the sport could possibly appear at the Olympics would be 2024.
Cricket’s authorities would need to submit their application by 2017 in order to be included in the 2024 Games.
However, there is no guarantee that will happen. Cricket’s governing body, the ICC, has already passed up opportunities to apply for the 2016 and 2020 Games.
An ICC spokesman said: “The ICC board will review the advantages and disadvantages of participation and make a decision on whether or not to seek inclusion.”
If they decide to go ahead, it is almost certain that the sport’s Twenty20 format would be proposed. Both the one-day and Test versions of the game would be almost impossible to fit into the two-week schedule of an Olympic programme.
Research from my betting sites suggests that applying to join the Olympics can help a sport to secure more funding. Both national federations and individual athletes benefit from increased government and sports body funding when their sport is included in the Games.
Indeed, there are numerous examples of sports – including cricket in countries like the Netherlands – having its funding slashed by authorities purely because it isn’t in the Olympics.
The ICC must decide whether that increased funding and the huge global exposure that would come from Olympic involvement makes it worth their while to seek inclusion.
Its concerns are likely to relate to diluting cricket’s brand. With Twenty20 still in its infancy, there is a danger that a new international tournament backed by free-to-air could detract from the ICC’s own T20 World Cup.
Equally, there are fears that any cricket fever that builds up around the Olympics might dissipate the moment the Games are over rather than leave a legacy of increased participation and popularity. After all, sports such as handball and volleyball rarely see any lasting benefits beyond the countries in which they were already popular.
The ICC now has four years to weigh up the pros and cons and decide whether to pursue an Olympic dream.