Women’s T20 cricket has been confirmed as a medal sport for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham after a majority of the 71 Games associations approved the move to include the sport in the programme besides beach volleyball and Para-table tennis.
The competition is the result of a joint bid by the International Cricket Council and the England and Wales Cricket Board and will feature eight teams playing at Edgbaston. Cricket has featured only once before, at the Commonwealth Games in 1998, when South Africa won a men's 50-overs-a-side competition in Kuala Lumpur.
“This is a truly historic moment for women’s cricket and for the global cricket community, who were united in their support of this bid,” said Manu Sawhney, Chief Executive of the International Cricket Council. “Women’s cricket continues to go from strength to strength, and we are delighted and honoured the Commonwealth Games Associations voted to include Women’s T20 cricket at Birmingham 2022.
“Fast and exciting, the T20 format is the perfect fit for the Commonwealth Games and offers another chance to showcase women’s cricket on the global stage as part of our ambitious plans to accelerate the growth of the game, whilst inspiring the next generation of cricketers. All the players who are lucky enough to compete at Birmingham 2022 will be part of a truly memorable experience."
The Commonwealth Games inclusion is seen as the first step towards a further leap with the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles next on the radar. Former England captain and MCC World Cricket Committee Chairman Mike Gatting on Monday confirmed that a push is on the cards to “pursue the sport’s Olympic ambitions.”
"There is still much to be done if cricket is to be included in the Olympics, with Los Angeles 2028 the earliest likely opportunity, and the ICC continuing to work internally to align cricket to pursue the sport's Olympic ambitions," a statement read.
Interestingly, if cricket does make the cut, it will not be the first time that the sport will be a part of Olympics. Way back in 1900, it was played in Paris Olympics but with only two teams - Great Britain and France. The talk of cricket's inclusion in the Olympics has been going on for a while but India - one of the global superpowers in the sport - have often resisted it for a variety of reasons.
One of the main reasons has been that being an Olympic sport would mean BCCI will have to come under the Indian Olympic Association and be recognised as a National Sporting Federation.
"We don't know what our status will be if we lose our autonomy. In the present situation, it is absolutely undesirable," a BCCI member was quoted as saying by Times of India on the issue in 2017.
However, another major bone of contention was recently settled when BCCI agreed to come under the NADA ambit - something which they have vehemently opposed mainly due to the whereabouts clause, where the players will have to share details of their travel and be open to dope testing at any given time. Being under NADA automatically means compliance with the WADA code - which is compulsory for the sport to be included in Olympics.
ICC has long argued for cricket's inclusion in the top-most sporting event in the world with former CEO Dave Richardson also vouching for the same during his stint.
"We think cricket should be in the 2028 Olympics,” he said. “But it's not going to happen unless we are unified as a sport. At this stage, we need to convince the BCCI that it is a good thing for cricket to be in the Olympics from all aspects. It will generate more fans, growth. The game will get bigger. It won't prejudice the value of our own events."
ICC chief operating officer Ian Higgins echoed Richardson's views, saying cricket in Olympics would spread the game beyond its traditional boundaries.
"The reason why Japan has grown rapidly in hockey and won gold in Asian Games is that it's an Olympic sport. Cricket is not an Olympic sport and hence they don't have enough means to develop their game. It's the same with China," he said.
According to the ICC's global strategy survey, 87% of the cricket fans want to see the sport being played in the Olympics. It will also help new nations get government funds and develop the game.
Cricket has also featured at multiple Asian Games, though India have refused to send a team to these competitions. After missing out at the last Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018, the sport is also likely to return to the Asian Games at Hangzhou, China in 2022.