ISLAMABAD: The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Monday confirmed it had submitted a bid for the inclusion of T20 women’s cricket into the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022. “The bid, which has been made in partnership with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), will see one of the world’s fastest growing women’s team sports apply to become part of the Commonwealth Games family,” said the ICC in a statement. Cricket has made just one appearance at the Games previously, with men playing in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur where South Africa stood on top of the podium. The application for inclusion of women’s cricket for Birmingham 2022 is part of the global strategy for cricket to inspire and empower women and girls around the world and to drive greater levels of inclusivity and opportunity throughout the sport.
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said in a statement: “Cricket and the Commonwealth are inextricably linked and almost perfectly aligned with 910 million of cricket’s one billion plus adult fans from Commonwealth countries. Creating a new partnership between women’s cricket and the Commonwealth Games demonstrates the commitment both organisations have to growing women’s sport and delivering greater equality, fairness and opportunity in sport across the Commonwealth. Birmingham is the perfect place to launch this partnership as the city shares cricket’s rich and diverse culture and heritage. 23 per cent of the city’s residents have links to cricket playing nations outside the UK, the deep connection between cricket and Birmingham will bring people together and inspire future generations of players and fans of women’s cricket. If cricket were to be staged in these Games, we know every team competing would be guaranteed ‘home’ support. There’s a ready-made audience and ready-made infrastructure in the local vicinity. This partnership has the potential to go way beyond a sporting event that can be enjoyed by hundreds of millions of fans in Birmingham, the UK and the rest of the world. I believe the players who reflect the diversity of this audience will send a powerful message to young women in Birmingham and beyond about the potential that they can achieve through sport.”
He added that the ICC would like cricket to lead the way in the Commonwealth in inspiring more young girls to take up sport regardless of their background or culture. “There’s a saying that ‘you can’t be it if you can’t see it’ — imagine the impact of millions of young girls around the world watching women’s cricket in the Commonwealth Games and being empowered with the knowledge that they too can play cricket, represent their country and compete on a global stage.” ECB Chairman Colin Graves said: “As Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, I’ve always been keen to support any steps that can help us to grow the game, both at home and across the globe. The women’s game is going from strength to strength, attracting strong crowds and drawing girls and boys to cricket – it’s an important strategic focus and a huge opportunity. To have cricket play a part in the Commonwealth Games, seen by a wide and diverse audience in the UK and played out across the world, would be a real boost for cricket and the women’s game.”
The bid to the Commonwealth Games Federation proposes an eight team T20 event played in two pools of four teams and totaling 16 matches in eight days held at two venues. The ICC has the unanimous backing of its Members and Board of Directors to pursue the inclusion of women’s cricket in the 2022 Commonwealth Games. There has been full commitment from all Members to celebrate the inextricable link between cricket and the Commonwealth and to delivering a world class cricket event at Birmingham 2022 that grows the relevance and reach of both cricket and the Commonwealth Games. An ICC and ECB delegation will present its bid for the inclusion of women’s cricket in the Birmingham 2022 sporting programme to an assessment panel early next month.
Cricket, which has struggled to grow beyond its traditional bases, was last played at the Olympics in the 1900 Paris Games. The ICC has been pushing for the game’s Olympic return with the 20-over format but the powerful Indian board has not been very keen on it, fearing it might lose its autonomy and be answerable to the country’s Olympic committee.