Adam Gilchrist is leading a player push for Twenty20 to be included in the 2020 Olympics, believing it is an essential step in securing the game's global future. With the start of the Beijing event less than a week away, Gilchrist says the cricket "pipedream" is a "potential reality" following the success of the new format and the Indian Premier League.
"It doesn't matter where the 2020 Olympic Games are held, but many of us who've experienced international Twenty20 cricket and the IPL are convinced that cricket should bid to become an Olympic sport in time for the Games," Gilchrist wrote in the Deccan Herald. Cricket was part of the 1900 Olympics before being cut, but last year it gained "recognition status" from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for two years.
"We have a responsibility to grow our game in new territories and amongst the women of the world," Gilchrist wrote. "I believe the Olympic Games is the vehicle the sport should use to aggressively sell the message of our sport to all 202 competing Olympic nations, so our sport is strong and robust in countries where it is currently played, and exciting and ground-breaking in countries who haven't yet caught the 'cricket-bug'."
To receive "programme status" at the 2020 Olympics, cricket would need to be approved by the IOC at a meeting seven years before the event. Twenty-six sports are part of the Beijing schedule and there are currently two vacancies for future Games. Golf, karate, baseball, softball, rugby sevens and roller sports are among the disciplines currently competing for the right to be involved in 2016.
Gilchrist believes it is time to start serious lobbying. "Between 2009 and 2013 cricket would promote itself to the IOC as a prospective sport and, if we get it right, cricket will be invited to the Olympic party in 2020," he said.
Each Full Member cricket board has been asked by the ICC to have two national men and women players complete Olympic questionnaires. The responses in Australia have been favourable and Gilchrist, a key performer in the IPL, has also sounded out excited colleagues from Australia, South Africa and England.
Gilchrist experienced the surge of interest in Twenty20 during his time with the Deccan Chargers earlier this year and is convinced the IPL revolution has "changed cricket forever". Now he wants the BCCI's officials to work with the ICC to help take it to the Olympics.
"They would be investing in the future of the sport because by having a men's and women's competition at the Olympic Games many more countries would be drawn to cricket," he said. "It wouldn't surprise me if countries like the USA, China, Italy, France and Japan become competitive very quickly in Twenty20, especially in women's Twenty20. I believe that in time the success of cricket at the Olympic Games will lead to more Test-playing nations, something that the sport will need in the coming century."
Gilchrist feels the aim is realistic. "The Olympic movement knows it needs to increase its presence in the Asian subcontinent as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh contribute nearly 22% of the world's population. In theory, this is a win-win for the Olympic movement and the ICC and its members."
India collected only a silver medal in Athens in 2004 while Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh failed to finish in the top three of any event. Cricket would dramatically increase each of the nations' chances of reaching the podium while lifting interest in the subcontinent.
Next year's Twenty20 World Championship in England will be held over 16 days, one day shorter than the Olympic programme. Supporters of cricket's push believe the length of the tournament - and its high-energy matches - is another valid reason for its inclusion.