The Asian Games offer a preview of what could soon be coming to the Olympics. That’s surely the case with cricket, which seems headed to the Olympic program as soon as the 2028 Los Angeles Games or the 2032 Brisbane Games.
India’s women won the gold medal on Monday at the Asian Games, defeating Sri Lanka in the 20-overs format (also known as T20). India scored 116-7 to beat Sri Lanka by 19 runs. The Sri Lankans scored 97-8.
“On this kind of wicket, we thought even if we scored something near the 120-run mark, we could defend it because we have a strong bowling unit,” India cricketer Minnu Mani said.
In the bronze medal game, Bangladesh scored 65-5 to defeat Pakistan, which scored 64-9. Bangladesh won by five wickets with 10 balls remaining.
“Our players had to hold on to their nerves and make it possible,” Bangladesh coach Hashan Tillakaratne said.
The men’s cricket final at the Asian Games is October 7, which could generate a massive television audience if archrivals India and Pakistan face off. That final, however, could be overshadowed by the start of the Cricket World Cup in India, which runs October 5 to November 19.
The International Olympic Committee earlier this month delayed a decision about adding cricket and several other sports to the Los Angeles Games. The IOC has given no clear timetable about when a decision about cricket will be made.
Cricket appeared in the Olympics for the only time in 1900 at the Paris Games.
Cricket’s return would be a big source of television revenue for the IOC, which generates more than half of its billions in income from selling television rights.
Cricket was first played at the Asian Games in 2010, with Pakistan winning the women’s competition and Bangladesh winning the men’s. The sport, much beloved in South Asia, featured in the 2014 Asian Games as well before being pulled; this year’s edition marks cricket’s reintroduction into the Asian Games.
India had skipped all previous cricket competitions at the Asian Games, saying its teams had competing commitments. This year, India originally indicated that its cricket teams would not participate again, but eventually reversed course, sending both women’s and men’s team (although the latter consists of a second string, with India’s best players heading to the Cricket World Cup instead).
“This landmark occasion witnesses all five Asian full member cricket nations participating under the banner of the Olympic Council of Asia,” Mahinda Vallipuram, the chair of development at the Asian Cricket Council, pointed out in an interview with Forbes.
“We are optimistic that this participation serves as a stepping stone towards cricket’s inclusion in future Olympics and regional events.”
The Asian Games involves about 12,400 competitors from 45 nations and territories with 481 gold medals on the line.
The race to the top the medal table is no race at all. Through the first 50 gold medals awarded, China has won 32. It also has won 50 medals overall, far ahead of Japan and South Korea, the main competition.
China won almost 300 medals in Indonesia at the 2018 Asian Games and seems certain to surpass that total at home.