ICC boss says 'time is right' for cricket to make bid for Olympic status

Cricket has not been played at the Summer Games since Great Britain beat France to win gold in 1900, but the ICC is now convinced an Olympic Twenty20 tournament is the key to growing the game beyond its traditional market - a view reinforced by the popularity of rugby sevens at Rio 2016.

Speaking to reporters at the SportsPro Live conference at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday, Richardson said: "We need to make a decision by July so we can make an application in time for September, when, as I understand it, the (International Olympic Committee) will consider new sports for 2024.

"I think the majority of the members - and certainly myself - think the time is right and we've come to the conclusion that the overall benefit to the game, in terms of globalising and growing it, outweighs any negatives. So I'm hoping."

Richardson, who made 164 appearances for South Africa in Tests and one-day internationals, said preliminary talks with the IOC have already taken place.

"They haven't said (an existing) sport would have to go (to make room), but they said when taking any decision on a new sport they've got an overall limit on the number of athletes," he said.

"So as a team sport we would only fit six to eight teams. They've also told us we mustn't send beach cricket or six-a-side teams. It must be a format played at international level and it must be our top players.

"T20 is the ideal format and we'd say even better than rugby sevens as it's actually one of the mainstream formats of cricket."

With growing concerns about the cost of staging the Games, the IOC has been reluctant to go much beyond 11,000 athletes at an Olympics, although it did add five new sports to the programme for Tokyo 2020 without removing any.

When asked if cricket's chances of inclusion in 2024 are hurt by the fact the Games will be staged in either Los Angeles or Paris, neither of them cricket hotbeds, Richardson said: "Neither would be a disaster for us. In fact both would be opportunistic, especially the US option, and even Paris wouldn't be impossible."

The 57-year-old also said that he did not think there would be any opposition from ICC members England or West Indies because they would not be able to compete at a Games under those banners.

He suggested England would be relaxed about playing as Great Britain and the constituent parts of the West Indies would have the same chance as any nation of coming through an "all encompassing" global qualifying process.

Richardson did, however, admit that the real obstacle, as so often with cricket, would be scheduling.

"From an ICC perspective, that's the most challenging part of it," he said.

"In the northern hemisphere, the Olympics are held in the English summer, so that's a problem for them if they've got an Ashes series on. So there will be issues and England in the past have said, 'Are we sure we want to go down this route?'"

Speaking more generally, Richardson made it clear that he would love to see the leading nations play a Test championship over a two-year period, with a one-off final at Lord's.

But he also said it was obvious to him that T20 was the best vehicle to grow the game, as it fits modern viewing habits better, appeals to newer audiences and showcases all of cricket's skills.

Women's cricket is another obvious growth target for Richardson and he said he would like to see it expand from about 10 per cent of the current amount of cricket played globally to more than 30 per cent within five years.

He was also bullish on cricket's chances of breaking another new market, the United States. Noting there are more regular players in the US than in New Zealand or Zimbabwe, Richardson said the ICC was working hard to bring the various strands of American cricket together so it could join the global pyramid and tap into the sport's wider grassroots participation schemes.

  International cricket chief Dave Richardson hopes Twenty20 can become an Olympic sport
International cricket chief Dave Richardson hopes Twenty20 can become an Olympic sport