Friday, August 29, 2008

Olympic Cricket ?

Ricky 'Punter/Hamster' Ponting reckons that Olympic cricket is inevitable and it looks possible that the IOC with an eye on future earnings and profits for the Olympics may well invite a 20/20 version of the game into the medal winning jamboree.

Why ? The population of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is vast, over a quarter of the world's entire population, their money generating power is huge, just look at the enormous amounts of cash washing around in Indian cricket at the moment. Cricket is by far the most popular sport in that part of the world so to the IOC it may well make fiscal sense to have cricket on board.

Like some other sports (which I would argue should be dropped from the Olympics) Cricket is not going to be the top rung of a most player's careers. Cricket already has it's World Cup, football has a World Cup and it's regional cups, tennis has the major tournaments. If the Olympics is not going to be the ultimate prize in any given sport, then why should that sport have its place in the Olympic cannon ?

The World Cup is the crowning moment in most cricketers careers, although if you're English or Australian then the Ashes is just as important, and if you're Indian or Pakistani then the tests between those countries hold major significance. Olympic 20/20 cricket just would not hold the same appeal or gravitas.

At home, England would have to swap their kit and become Great Britain. Apart from the kit change this would mean nothing, players from Wales are already included in the England squad, and half of Scotland's team seem to come from South Africa and the sub-continent so they could not be included in the GB team. Would the England team feel the same playing as GB though, would they approach an Olympic 20/20 game with the same amount of determination and preparation that they would give to the Ashes ? Of course not.

Paul Collingwood was forthright and honest recently when asked about his form this summer ...""We're always asked to be 100% all of the time, but I'd rather be crap against New Zealand and then build form up towards Australia," said Collingwood. "We've got a big Ashes series coming up, so maybe subconsciously you try and peak at the right time."

That seems fair enough in a way, of course we would like all our cricketers to be on devastating form all the time, but as athletes in other disciplines build up to big events, so do our cricketers, so if a winter Ashes series was to fall just after an Olympic competition do we really think that the English/GB and Australian teams were going to play their best games under the five rings ? I don't believe so.

I would say no to Olympic cricket, it won't displace the big test series or the World Cup as the most important point in a player's professional life so there is no point to it. It may well face awkward competition from the IPL, from the Stanford series and from a possible England based 20/20 series, all of which are extremely cash rich and offer huge prizes, and how would it look in the Olympics if the top stars in cricket pulled out to be ready to play a money game elsewhere ?

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