Beach cricket at the Olympics? Sutherland can’t be serious

Date: November 8, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

SutherlandMost of us are aware that cricket has designs on being included in the Summer Olympic programme. A few years back the ICC floated the concept of ‘Twenty20 at 2020’.

That went nowhere as the Tokyo Games will be sans cricket but shortly the IOC is going to sit down and listen to the ICC pitch for inclusion in the 2024 Games.

The venue is yet to be decided with the candidate cities for next year’s ballot being Rome, Hamburg, Paris, Budapest and Los Angeles.

In the lead-in to day two of the Gabba Test yesterday Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland was asked on ABC Grandstand about the prospect of the sport being given an Olympic guernsey in nine years’ time.

Now, most of us consider that the Twenty20 format would be the one that would be pushed and it is the preferred option but having the necessary grounds required to accommodate it in non-cricket playing nations is an issue.

With that logistical hurdle in mind, Sutherland floated another couple of ideas, saying, “There are other ways it could be played. Beach cricket’s not a silly idea, nor is indoor cricket.”

No, you are right James they are not silly ideas. They are simply ludicrous and totally bizarre.

How in the world could one of the most influential men in the sport have floated such ridiculous concepts?

It beggars belief that he, or anyone at the ICC, could contend that such forms of the game could be legitimately included on the Olympic calendar.

For crying out loud, beach cricket? Eskies for stumps and fielding in the deep could really add to the Olympic spectacle. Beach cricket is a past time, not really what you would classify as a sport, certainly not in an elite sense anyway.

Think beach cricket and you conjure up the recent multi-summer series played out around Australia on behalf of a beer manufacturer that featured the likes of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Graham Gooch and Graeme Hick. The sponsor was XXXX Gold … coincidentally it was something along the lines of ‘XXXX’ that I uttered when I heard Sutherland float the idea of beach cricket at the Olympics.

Indoor cricket is perhaps just a rung – and a broken one at that – above the beach idea.

Yes, there is at least a World Indoor Cricket Federation. It was established in 2004 and has six full members – Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Sri Lanka – and three associate members (Wales, UAE and Singapore).

The first Indoor World Cup was held in England in 1995 and there have been nine men’s tournaments and eight women’s since then. Each of those 17 World Cups have been won by Australia.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a passionate Australian sports fan but do we really think it would be a good idea to have cricket at the Olympics contested inside a small, netted rectangle?

The ICC seems hell bent on gaining Olympic admission. In fact, it is arguing for readmission as it was part of the five ring circus at Paris in 1900.

And what a thrilling competition it was. Great Britain defeated France by 158 runs to claim the gold medal. “Who won the bronze?”, I hear you ask. Simple. Nobody. Only two nations took part.

Cricket will no doubt point to rugby’s inclusion on the programme for Rio next year. It was part of the Olympics for four Games between 1900 and 1924 – in fact a combined Australasian team won gold at London in 1908.

Back then it was the traditional 15-a-side format.

Next year in Brazil rugby sevens will make its debut having been included in the Rio programme while Jacques Rogge – a former Belgian national rugby captain – was IOC President.

It could be argued that rugby sevens is to the 15-a-side game what T20 is to longer form cricket.

In fact, you could mount a very strong case that given the crossover at elite international level between players in all three forms of cricket that T20 would represent a higher level of sport than rugby sevens at the Olympics.

But, does that mean cricket should be at the Olympics in any form? No it doesn’t.

But, one thing is certain if it is granted a place at the 2024 Games or beyond it can only be in one form and that is T20.

The idea that it could be played on a mat laid down on beach sand or in an indoor gymnasium is ludicrous.

Sorry James, but there is no way you will get consensus on either of those forms of the sport being included at the Olympics.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 7 November 2015, soliciting 27 comments