The head of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has criticised leading cricket officials for a fixation with money that he believes is hindering the sport’s prospects of global development.
Cricket featured in the the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea this year, having made its debut as a medal sport in Guangzhou, China in 2010.
However, no major nation sent a full-strength side, with players allowed to prioritise established international and domestic competitions elsewhere. India – cricket’s financial powerhouse since the establishment of the lucrative Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition and the sport’s reigning world champion – is yet to send a men’s or women’s team to the Asian Games.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the OCA, told reporters: "The people who are in charge of cricket are looking to be businesspeople and they want money more than promotion for the game. They want to control the market, they want to control the game, they want to keep the big athletes for their own. This is not sport, this is business. When we put a sport in a programme, we always wish to have the top athletes here.”
Cricket’s global governing body, the International Cricket Council, recently decided against pursuing Olympic status, and Sheikh Ahmad believes such an outlook is set to restrict cricket to its traditional heartlands. "You can be rich by the game but you have to cover the other sector, and this is why cricket is still only a Commonwealth sport," he added.
A second-string Sri Lanka team triumphed at the Asian Games in a cricket tournament dogged by poor attendances.