The International Cricket Council (ICC) is set to pump $3 million into its long-awaited bid for the sport to get back into the Olympics with the governing body anticipating having about two years to sway the Los Angeles Games Local Organizing Committee.
As I first reported last December, the ICC formed a working group tasked with providing a detailed analysis on how cricket can be an Olympic sport and the five-person panel will essentially act as lobbyists.
Even though the working group had been formed long ago, it was not officially announced by the ICC until the Tokyo Olympics was winding down as its bid to get cricket into the LA Games was publicly unveiled amid much Olympic fever.
In a nod to the usual dawdling of a notoriously slow moving ICC, which in part explains why cricket has not appeared at the Olympics since 1900, the working group only first met officially on August 8.
At the meeting, according to sources, the focus was sorting out a budget for the bid with $3 million flagged by the working group. The ICC will use some of those funds to engage an external agency to help it with the bid, which will involve furious lobbying amid expected fierce competition, including from popular American sports baseball and softball.
The selected agency will be tasked with establishing a strong public relations campaign with cricket’s notoriously divided board finally on the same page for the Olympic bid after years of bickering.
There is expected to be much travel involved for some of the working group members who will be needed to fraternize with International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials. According to Inside The Games, the provisional sport program for the LA Games is expected to be finalized in February at the IOC Session in Beijing.
But, according to sources, the working group believe they have until 2024 before a final decision will be made by the LA Games LOC.
At its meeting earlier this month, there was discussion on what format will be used with T20 still preferred by all and sundry. But the door remains slightly ajar, according to sources, for T10 – previously advocated by some Associates – and the Hundred which has made its recent debut in the U.K.
With those truncated versions still not official ICC formats, T20 will most likely get the nod having been deemed as the growth engine of the sport for some time. It’s the format USA Cricket has planted its flag on with its much-hyped professional T20 franchise competition launching next year.
USA Cricket chair Paraag Marathe was an addition to the working group and likely relied upon to be cricket’s biggest salesman in the U.S. The San Francisco 49ers executive vice president of football operations is the only non board director on the working group, which is chaired by Ian Watmore from the ECB.
Watmore’s elevation into the role underlines his rising influence on the board, where he is now seen as a right hand man to chair Greg Barclay, according to sources.
Barclay, who was elected as chair last November after a bruising victory over Imran Khwaja, has tweaked the original formation of the working group. Eyebrows were raised when Khwaja, who is the current deputy chair, was not part of the new makeup even though he was the instigator of the working group while the interim chair last year, according to sources.
Mahinda Vallipuram, an Associate Director, replaced Scotland’s Tony Brian who was ousted at last year’s board elections.
There is some cynicism that Vallipuram, until recently the long-time president of the Malaysian Cricket Association, was rewarded for reportedly supporting Barclay at last year’s election. But he does have a wealth of experience dealing with global multi-sports events as the vice president of the Malaysian Olympic Council.
Some on the board believe he should have originally been part of the working group, which also includes independent director Indra Nooyi and Tavengwa Mukuhlani (Zimbabwe).
Much like Marathe, U.S-based Nooyi will be leaned upon as an important trumpeter of cricket in the American market with the former PepsiCo
Mukuhlani and Vallipuram will be tasked with shoring up support amongst Olympic officials in their respective regions of Africa and Asia to fuel goodwill globally for cricket’s bid. Roles for each working group member are set to be clearer at the next meeting set for August 30.
It’s taken a long time but finally cricket’s long-awaited and now much-hyped bid has started.
But time is ticking.