Nearly two months ago, the ICC confirmed its intention to push for cricket’s inclusion in the Olympic Games. As things stand, Los Angeles 2028 seems to be the target. But ever since the news broke out, there has been a raging debate over which format the sport should adapt at the quadrennial mega event.
We’re still years away from the ICC coming to a final decision on that front, but in a fun exercise, our writers argue which format, they feel, should be adopted by the sport come 2028.
The case for T20 cricket at The Olympics
“I think it is difficult to play this seriously”, said Ricky Ponting ahead of the first ever T20 international. The format was disapproved as a gimmick in its earlier years but caught on with everyone quite soon. I am not saying that it cannot happen to T10 and The Hundred but there is a specific reason that T20 made the transition. There lies an underappreciated beauty in the format.
It is the shortest time frame that carries scope for conventional cricket to flourish. You can see well constructed knocks laden with proper cricketing strokes. Bowlers though, have only four overs to lay impact individually but as a team, we have seen many bowling turnarounds already. Teams can still get all out, retaining the value of wickets to some degree. There is space for tactical nuances, revolving largely around match-ups.
While these intricacies may not be comprehended by an average viewer, it all boils down to a proper ‘bat versus ball’ contest. That is what cricket is. That is how ICC ought to promote it to the non-cricketing spheres, which is the biggest upside of cricket’s presence at the Olympics. It offers a lucid presentation of the basics of cricket in the shortest time frame possible.
That is pretty much why T20 is already the most prominent format amongst non Test playing nations and remains the best bet to pull more spectators for the sport. Besides, you would want an internationally recognized format to represent cricket in the Olympics. T20 also has the longest history for the non-cricket fans to associate with the players’ stats that will appear during the broadcast.
The time is the only snag as a T20 game is longer than both T10 and a Hundred match. However, consistent triple headers can still wrap up a tournament within a fortnight.
In any case, a Hundred game would only be an hour shorter if the T20s are managed properly - no strategic time-outs. It is largely similar to a T20 game barring a handful of different rules that will only complicate things for the untapped audience if they switch to international cricket.
T10 lacks the ‘bat versus ball’ outline. It is a slogfest where the bowlers are mere participants. With the sole aim to circumvent big hits, their skills to swing, spin and exhibit other enticing fundamentals of bowling take a backseat. Imagine trying to promote your product when a major feature is not at its full pomp. Not feasible, right?
Hence, T20 remains the most efficient format to present cricket in the Olympics. It has its drawbacks too. However, it is a format still in its youth and the positive aspects should be used to good effect.
Why Cricket should go ‘The Hundred’ way at the Olympics
The Hundred can bring in fans unknown.
For the uninitiated, cricket rules are a puzzle. There are six balls in an over, there are so and so overs in a match, each side plays this many and whoever makes the most runs wins a game. It just doesn’t stop there.
With the introduction of Hundred, the arithmetic chore of counting in multiples of six is eliminated with a well-rounded number. Whether it’s a mathematician or an average Joe, it’s as easy as counting the money in your wallet.
When counting deliveries becomes easier, there is the challenge of keeping the audience's attention. The recent inaugural edition has been successful in finishing a match little over two hours, which is the same as a regular football match including the half-time break.
By being 20 balls less than the T20 format and 40 balls more than a T10 match, Hundred reduces the hassle of time and math while keeping the focus on skill sets and strategizing. Unlike the T10 format, which requires slogging from the get go, batters still have space to accelerate. Bowlers can find solutions within the spells of consecutive deliveries which in turn keeps the role of a captain intact.
These advantages have attracted top talent in men’s and women’s cricket which are essential for a new sport in the Olympics. Playing back-to-back games across both genders at the same venue has proved to be a success, a formula which can be easily replicated at the Olympics with an 8-team table.
In times where women are treated to the apathy of major T20 leagues, the Hundred began as an extravaganza of equals. With enough attention given to both categories and the promise of better prize money and match fees in the women’s game, Hundred will offer cricket to be viewed in a different light on a global platform such as the Olympics.
Criticism is inevitable. T20 cricket was seen as a joke by those who played the longer formats. When the IPL began in 2008, it took players a few seasons to look at it as a professional and not just a part-time gig. Once that kicked in, franchise leagues sprouted which made T20 the behemoth it is today. Meanwhile, the T10 format has struggled with its reach for pushing the envelope too far.
Being the middle child among 21st century innovations allows Hundred to add to the game’s advancements and not demand a radical change in approach from players, organizers and fans. The Hundred is still in its infancy, but there are still two Olympic cycles to go until the Los Angeles Games, which gives administrators enough time to plan better reach and accessibility.
The case for T10 cricket at the Olympics
It was not too long ago that T20 was a very unpopular format, but by now it has taken over the sport to the extent that even the most hardcore of purists have come to accept it. Well, at least they’ve learnt to live with it.
There is, however, still one format that a vast majority of cricket fans, T20 enthusiasts included, love to gang-up and hate on, terming it ‘not cricket’. Of course, I’m talking about T10 cricket. T10 has only ever been in the news for all the wrong reasons and many find it a parody of what the sport stands for.
So why am I out here championing it for the Olympics then?
Let me explain. There are good reasons for doing so. In fact, there are GREAT reasons.
The first and the biggest reason why T10 'SHOULD' be the format that Cricket should adopt at the Olympics is its duration: it is crisp and short. An average T10 match takes just about an hour and 45 minutes to complete, which is roughly half the time as a T20 match. When you’re catering to a wider casual audience, duration is vitally important: the shorter, the better.
This is precisely why Swimming, Athletics and Archery are among the most watched events during the Olympics - they are super quick and provide instant gratification for the viewer.
Sure, a 3.30 hour T20 match might entice a die-hard fan, but you’d be fooling yourself if you think it will keep an outsider hooked. Ultimately, if the aim of introducing Cricket at the Olympics is to grow the sport, it will be imperative to capture new fans. You’re not going to capture new fans by making them wait 4 hours. Or through ‘history’ and ‘tradition’. What history does ‘Hundred’ or T20 hold anyway?
Not to mention, shorter matches will also make it easy for scheduling. It could potentially even open the door for 8-10 more teams to compete, for there will be no fixture congestion. It will also be easier on the players.
The only real complaint I can see is that ‘T10 is not cricket’ due to the imbalance between bat and ball. But then again, who decides what’s cricket and what’s not? There is bat, ball, 22 players, fans, officials and a bunch of rules. That seems Cricket enough to me.
Boxing at the Olympics still largely includes plenty of ‘Amateur Boxing’ rules but we don’t care, do we? We just enjoy the spectacle. Once the bell rings, we’re in awe of what the god-gifted athletes do.
Likewise, once the umpire calls ‘play’, the 10-over-a-side rule will not matter. Nor will the fact that the format is batter-dominated. All that will matter is the action. And believe it, 20 overs is A LOT of time for 22 world-class athletes to put up a show.
I rest my case.