Five Reasons Why Cricket Isn't an Olympic Sport

It didn't work in 1900. This is why it doesn't work now.

Pierre de Coubertin wanted cricket in the first modern Olympiad way back in 1896, inspired by a sporting carnival in Shropshire. It made a fleeting appearance the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, where an amateur team from regional Britain comfortably defeated a rabble of mostly British ex-pats representing France. There was virtually no fanfare for either the victors or for the event itself, and like ballooning and croquet, cricket was making its first and last Olympic appearance.

The world is a very different place now from what it was in 1900, and cricket itself has changed dramatically. Some argue that modern cricket would benefit from a restoration to the Olympic ranks, but that remains unlikely under the prevailing viewpoint in England, in India, and at the International Cricket Council. To sum up the case against, here are five reasons why cricket isn't an Olympic sport.

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Hurry up, we haven't got all day

The Olympic flag at London 2012 user aguichard

We are never going to see a Test cricket world cup, let alone an Olympic tournament for four- or five-day international cricket. There simply isn't the time. But even Twenty20 cricket, currently the shortest type of cricket and the likely format for an Olympic competition, takes at least three and a half hours. If the tournament followed the same format as Olympic football (soccer), with 16 teams in four groups, that would make for over 100 hours of cricket.

The modern Winter Olympics lasts up to three weeks and features around 300 different events, all of which would be cricket's rivals for viewer attention. It could be argued that cricket's length is one of the game's most appealing features, providing as it does an opportunity for several different in-game narratives to evolve, but it wouldn't stand a chance if programmed against shot put qualification or swimming heats -- events that are over in seconds or minutes.

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The bottom line

The possibility of a spike in TV viewership, which could in turn lead to global growth in cricket, is one of the central arguments in favour of getting cricket into the Olympics. Unfortunately, simple viewing figures aren't enough: they need to translate into a direct financial benefit. And it's unclear that the Olympics could provide that for cricket.

If the tournament were Twenty20, that could mean the biennial World Twenty20 tournament -- one of cricket's biggest cash cows -- would have to switch to a four-year cycle, potentially taking millions out of the game. What's more, the Olympics might generate a generous income from television rights, but that would go to the International Olympic Committee rather than the International Cricket Council (ICC). As a part of the Olympics package, cricket would receive a dividend, but estimates suggest that would be worth less than a World T20 tournament to the ICC's bottom line.

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Cricket? Isn't that an insect?

The Olympic Games is about representation as much as anything -- about bringing all parts of the world together under the banner of sport. Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world, with an estimated billion plus people counted as fans, but that doesn't make it a global game. Top-level international cricket is played by only a handful of nations, and many residents in ICC Associate and Affiliate nations would have only a passing interest at best.

This doesn't just mean a limited amount of interest in the possibility of cricket at the Olympics. Cricket also demands a high level of expertise in administration and field preparation, which would be difficult and potentially very expensive for a non-cricket-playing host. The organising committee for Tokyo 2020, for example, could easily see cricket as more trouble than it's worth, especially if barely anyone is interested in watching it.

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The Home Nations aren't one nation

It worked for the Great Britain football team in 2012 -- at least, until they were knocked out in the quarter-finals. Could England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales band together for a Great Britain cricket team at the Olympics?

Not really. The English cricket team we currently know actually represents both England and Wales, while Scotland and particularly Northern Ireland would struggle to make a case for any of its players being included in place of the current England squad. That would make for a rather politically sensitive selection, and as England has one of the loudest voices in global cricket administration, its reluctance to cause an international incident may keep it from embracing the Olympic flame.

Meanwhile, the repercussions of Olympic cricket competition could hasten the break-up of an already unstable West Indies team. The West Indies are comprised of over a dozen Caribbean nations, none of which could compete on the international cricket scene on their own but which form an uneasy alliance regularly riven by power struggles. The tension of competing against one another at the Olympics could upset that balance once and for all.

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The Olympic motto is 'Faster, Higher, Stronger'

Not 'Longer, Savvier, More Consistent'. Cricket rarely bears witness to outstanding physical feats; the closest you get is a massive six or a ball bowled over 150km/h. Rather, cricket is about out-thinking the opposition and backing that up with consistent execution of technical skills. It just isn't an easy fit for the Olympic ideal.