At every Olympics we marvel at the athletes who commit their lives to be the best in the world. For a fleeting moment, I imagine seeing the athleticism and dedication of young Americans playing cricket in the Olympics. More than that, I dream about cricket in the Olympics and how many will benefit from such an addition.
Cricket would have been broadcasted to households in more than 200 countries. NBC averaged 27.8 million viewers in the first 10 nights of the Rio Olympics. A single game between India and Pakistan in Rio would have given NBC nearly 1 billion viewers. More viewers would result in better broadcasting deals, more ad revenue, and a greater share of revenue to be distributed to participating countries.
Many National Olympic Committees, backed by their governments, would have invested millions of dollars in infrastructure and preparation to support their male and female cricketers. Greater investment and interest would mean more sports scientists studying the game. Cricket would have been closer to technical perfection than it had ever been before.
In my dream, the Olympic format of cricket would be 10 overs. It would be the most exciting format of cricket and viewers would love the bite-sized game. That's one and a half hours - the same duration as a soccer game. It may appear short to the traditional cricket fan but it's long compared to a one-hour Handball game and a 15-minute Rugby Sevens game. The format would permit fans to see two back-to-back games in a single sitting without a chance of boredom.
On the day of the gold medal match, out of the dressing room comes the towering Jamaican. Not Usain "Lightning" Bolt. It's his country-mate, Chris Gayle, the "Gaylestorm". It is a matter of coincidence that two of the country's biggest athletes are nicknamed after weather phenomena. Phenomenal they are indeed.
The stadium is blue not because of empty seats but because fans are dressed in blue supporting India. The cameraman found Sachin Tendulkar in attendance. He flashes a smile and a wave, and the crowd erupts. Local Rio fans don't recognize him but it doesn't matter because they're relishing the passion of the fans.
Harsha Bhogle and Ian Bishop bring insightful analysis to the commentary box. They're joined by an American who is well prepped on every cricket player to grace Rio. In the meanwhile, Danny Morrison is blending in with the locals on Copacabana beach as he uncovers the beauty of Brazil.
The Olympics end and the best parts are yet to come. There are cricket Olympic heroes and children around the world aspiring to be the next cricket Olympian. The sport now has greater significance among countries that are not represented by one of the top-ranked teams in the world.
Universities across the US adopt women's cricket en-masse and the NCAA gives cricket the status of an emerging women's sport. Professional domestic leagues come to life, opening up the gate for more players to play cricket full time.
This dream could be realized eight years from now. The 2024 Olympic host will be announced on September 13, 2017. If Rome wins the Olympic bid, Cricket will be in the Olympics as part of the new flexibility provided by the Olympic Agenda 2020, according to the Federazione Cricket Italiana President, Mr. Simone Gambino.
According to an IOC release, the Olympic Agenda 2020 "gives Organizing Committees the flexibility to propose new sports for their edition of the Games with the intention of putting even more focus on innovation, flexibility and youth in the development Olympic programme." Tokyo 2020 is the first Organizing Committee to enjoy this benefit. The IOC approved the addition of five new sports: baseball/softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing.
With one year to go to the 2024 Olympic host announcement, there is time for the Los Angeles (LA) Organizing Committee to also add cricket as one of the five new proposed sports. The ICC Americas office relocation to Colorado Springs with the United States Olympic Committee, and the hosting of the World Cricket League Division 4 in LA next month, could be strategic moves toward getting cricket on that Olympic slate. Having LA join Rome in the proposal to add cricket as a new sport, gives us a 50% chance of seeing this dream come true.