Cricket in the Commonwealth Games would help re-energise West Indies, claims CANOC President

CANOC President Brian Lewis hopes a solution can be found so cricket can return to the Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images

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Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC) President Brian Lewis has claimed the continued absence from the Commonwealth Games programme would be a "loss for cricket".

Cricket last featured at the Games back at Kuala Lumpur 1998, where a 50 over format was contested.

Efforts to include the sport on the programme since have fallen flat but both the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and officials in Birmingham have indicated they would be in favour of the sport returning in 2022.

There have been positive noises coming from the International Cricket Council (ICC) about pursuing a place on the Commonwealth and Olympic Games programmes.

A continued reluctance by key powerbroker the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) remains a stumbling block.

CGF President Louise Martin raised the possibility of a mixed cricket competition featuring at Birmingham 2022 in December when the English city was confirmed as hosts of the event.

Lewis believes that while having both men’s and women’s tournaments should be the first option, a mixed tournament could help break the deadlock and would help the sport to grow its fanbase and popularity.

He compared the cricket’s absence from multi-sport events to the initial reluctance to introduce the Twenty20 (T20) format of the game, now arguably the sport’s most thriving product.

Lewis, also President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, urged organisations to find a solution to ensure the sport features at the Commonwealth Games.

"I think that not having T20 on the Commonwealth Games programme, regardless of whether it is men’s, women’s or mixed, would be a loss to the game of cricket," he told insidethegames.

"It denies cricket an opportunity to broaden its horizons.

"While there are a number of hurdles to cross, there needs to be cricket.

"Maybe the stakeholders will decide they do not want to become a truly global game, but then that would be their choice.”

"There was a point in time where the same establishment had grave reservations and were very adamant that T20 couldn’t work.

"Now the tables have turned as T20 is the modern 21st century, while test cricket is struggling to remain relevant.

"The reality is the world has changed, there is a growing appetite for certain types of activities.

"I think cricket at the Games would be T20, maybe T10 or T15 or T5.

"My point is that where there is a will, there is a way and I think it will help cricket."

South Africa emerged as the winners the last time cricket appeared on the Games programme 20-years ago.

The tournament in Kuala Lumpur also saw Caribbean islands compete as separate islands, rather than as the combined West Indies team.

Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Jamaica ultimately represented the region.

Neither of the teams were able to make it out of their respective groups.

Concerns have previously been expressed over whether the future of the West Indies team would be in doubt should cricket return to the Commonwealth or Olympic programmes.

Lewis, on the contrary, claims a return would help to energise the West Indies due to greater competition for places.

"I remember in 1988, when you had 50 over cricket.

"Caribbean countries participated as Caribbean countries.

"People may want to deny it, but cricket was energised in the region under this format.

"Where you had the countries playing separately, with a number of smaller countries coming through and a number of players emerging.

"I believe cricket in the West Indies would be greater enhanced.

"It is an oddity in the modern environment, but I do not see West Indies cricket as a product being diminished by having cricket in the Commonwealth Games or Olympics and making countries play separately.

"I think it would enhance West Indies cricket, similar to the Britain and Irish Lions in rugby union.

"The more competition and opportunity you have for cricketers in the Caribbean region to play and be exposed to competing for positions, I think it would be better for West Indies cricket."

Read Michael Pavitt's blog Why the Commonwealth Games needs cricket and cricket needs the Commonwealth Games.