Cricket is set for a return at the Asian Games after the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) included it in the sports programme for the 2022 edition in Hangzhou. The decision was taken at the OCA's General Assembly here. "Yes, cricket has been included in the sports programme for 2022 Hangzhou Games," OCA honorary vice-president Randhir Singh told PTI. Cricket was dropped from the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia after featuring in 2010 and 2014, albeit without the presence of the game's powerhouse India. India opted out of the quadrennial event owing to the team's packed international schedule.
The Indian Olympic Association welcomed the decision of the OCA to include cricket in the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games programme. "We welcome the decision of the OCA. Which format will be played is not yet confirmed but it is a welcome decision," said IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta, who attended the General Assembly in Bangkok. He said the IOA would want to have an Indian cricket team in the 2022 Asian Games.
"The IOA will request the BCCI to send a cricket team in the 2022 Asian Games. India can win in both men and women's events and increase its medal tally," Mehta said. In all probability, the T20 format will be played at the Asian Games, like it happened during the 2010 and 2014 edition in Guangzhou and Incheon respectively. Since the mega event is still some years away, the BCCI has plenty of time to deliberate on the Indian team's participation.
"There is a lot of time to go for 2022 Asian Games. In due time, we will discuss and decide," a BCCI official said. The decision to include cricket in the 2022 programme was on expected lines after Randhir visited Hangzhou last month to zero in on a suitable venue. Sri Lanka and Pakistan won the men's and women's gold in 2014 while Bangladesh and Pakistan claimed the top honours in 2010.
Cricket has also been played once at the Commonwealth Games, in 1998, when India and Pakistan sent teams to Kuala Lumpur. However, the Shaun Pollock-led South Africa won the gold there and Australia, captained by Steve Waugh, the silver.
In the 2014 Asian Games, OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah had criticised the BCCI for not sending its teams for the second edition in a row.
"I'm sorry that India, for the second Games, did not send a team. I respect their decision but I believe the people in charge are not interested in promotion of the game but only in making it a business, in making money out of it. They want to control the market and control the game," he had said.
In another major decision taken at the OCA General Assembly on Sunday, it was announced that Oceania countries, including Australia, will be invited to compete at the 2022 Asian Games. It was reported that the number of Oceania athletes who will be allowed to compete in Hangzhou will be decided at a later date.