The sad story of cricket at the Asiad

Hindustan Times, 5th Oct 2014
Hindustan Times, 5th Oct 2014

So the Sheikh has said what I was thinking about a couple of days ago, when I read that Sri Lanka and Afghanistan were going to play the men’s cricket final at the Asian Games at Incheon.

Cricket was introduced as one of the sports at the Asian Games in Guangzhou 2010. The hope certainly must have been to propel the game in Asia beyond the sub-continent. At the global level, the game has found few takers. In Asia only India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have been significant players, though UAE, Afghanistan and Hong Kong also have fielded teams at international tournaments. The Asian Games would give the 40-odd countries in Asia the rare once-in-four-years opportunity to play at a respectable level of competition.

The format of the event is such that the reputed teams have to put in less sweat. They directly enter the quarter finals (QF) to play one of the qualifiers.

This year, for the men’s event, the qualifier teams were in two groups: Group A – South Korea, Malaysia, China; Group B – Kuwait, Nepal, Maldives. Direct entry into the QF was given to Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

In the women’s competition, the qualifier teams were: Group C – China, Hong Kong, South Korea; Group D – Thailand, Nepal, Maldives. Direct entry – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Japan.

Unlike China for whom medals fall like the monsoon rains, India’s quest for medals is akin to searching for needles in a haystack. So from India’s point of view, the two cricket medals up for grabs should have, well, been grabbed! A look at the score cards and final results would indicate that India were in with a good chance. 2014 results – Men, Women.

Asian Games cricket results

However, India, rather, the BCCI, did not send teams, both in 2010 and 2014 – not for the men’s competition and not even for the women’s competition. No wonder then that the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) is seething!

The media made a big fuss about our tennis players opting to play elsewhere instead of the Asian Games – with endless debates and discussions. Amidst it all, Sania Mirza made a choice – deciding to go the Asian Games. She chose country over self. And she did well.

There were no sounds about our cricketers, and no sounds from them either. Neither the current ones nor those retired even talked about the desire for India to go to the Asian Games. They probably didn’t feel so.  Cricket surely deserves better.

Dhoni & Co probably did not have a choice – they had to choose the Champions League over the Asian Games. But they had a voice. The games was planned years in advance, and BCCI/ ICC could have worked to get things rescheduled. Even if they could not, there are millions of adept cricket players, waiting for a chance to don the Indian colours. BCCI might as well have given them a chance – before they too got the choice between money and country. In situations of conflict like this, the IPL and Champions League are just that. One thing is for sure – they’re not getting any of my money again! Sadly, as with the Asian Games, or the joy of winning a seemingly insignificant medal, for them it will not matter.

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