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How Steve Waugh is trying to make cricket part of Olympics

Cricket’s relationship with the Olympics has been tenuous at best; the only time it featured in the Games was in 1900, when a solitary match was played between England and hosts France. But some interesting nexuses have developed in recent years, even if tangential.

For instance, the archery competition - where India is reckoned to have a good chance of winning a couple of medals — is going to be held at Lord’s, the Mecca of cricket. The preliminaries start at 11 this morning, with the stiff upper-lipped members of the Marylebone Cricket Club perhaps still dazed by this ‘invasion’.

Who would have thought? But on second thoughts, what could be more appropriate in building up  case for the inclusion of cricket in the Olympics?

A couple of days back, Waugh was at Lord’s catching administrators and stewards by surprise by showing off his prowess with bow and arrow rather than bat and ball. Getty Images
Of course we are still far, far removed from this happening, but with the arrival of T20, the scope for cricket becoming an Olympic discipline has improved manifold, and as Steve Waugh, the former Australia captain would tell you, every little push in this direction is important.

Waugh is in London as Australia’s ‘athlete liason officer’, and if that seems like a bit of a comedown for the most successful captain in Test cricket history, it can be told that he truly is passionate about the Olympics.

A couple of days back, he was at cricket’s hallowed ground, catching administrators and stewards by surprise by showing off his prowess with bow and arrow rather than bat and ball. As part of his country’s contingent, he wanted to think and feel like an ‘Olympian’.

In a sense, this is repressed desire. I remember speaking to Waugh at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 (when he was captain of the team), and he seemed obsessed by the thought that cricket could feature in a multi-discipline event.

Of course, cricket was dropped from the Commonwealth Games too after the 1998 experiment, but Waugh (and some others like Adam Gilchrist) has not stopped hoping; the arrival of T20 has succoured this hope.

During one of his visits to India in 2010, Waugh had reiterated that his desire was to see cricket in the Olympic fold. “That would truly universalise the sport,’’ he had said. But to impress the IOC would be like trying to move Everest, and as has been sadly evident, the ICC oftentimes is incapable of moving a paperweight.

Nonetheless, the participation of former greats like Waugh keeps the flame of hope alive. He was at Beijing too with the Australian squad, and his presence in London shows that he has not run out of passion or commitment.

Meanwhile, hockey coach Michael Nobbes expressed his wish that the iconic Sachin Tendulkar should have been at the Olympics, like Waugh, to be with the Indian contingent and motivate them. Interesting thought which the Indian Olympic Association should have come up with earlier.

I suspect it is too late now. Or is it?

P S: Tonight’s opening ceremony is likely to have a segment on cricket too. Danny Boyle and the organisers have kept the theme, structure and contents of the ceremony under wraps, but it is widely believed  the pastoral beauty of cricket, in its earliest days, will find expression.

by Ayaz Memon

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