England news February 16, 2017

Birmingham bids to include cricket at 2026 Commonwealth Games

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Women's cricket is set to be a part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban © Getty Images

Men's cricket could return to the Commonwealth Games in 2026 if Birmingham wins the bid to be the host city.

While women's cricket will feature in the 2022 Games in Durban, men's cricket has appeared only once. On that occasion, in Malaysia in 1998, the format was 50 overs per side (South Africa defeated Australia in the final). This time it would be played in the T20 format.

Cricket is not currently one of the mandatory events incorporated into the Commonwealth Games but is on the list of optional sports that host cities have the power to add to their staging of the event as they see fit and with the support of the relevant sport's governing body.

While that cannot be guaranteed at this stage, the ICC agreed to the inclusion of women's cricket in 2022 and is already working with the Commonwealth Games Federation on the successful staging of the event. The ICC is understood to be open to dialogue over the 2026 Games.

Neil Snowball, the Warwickshire chief executive, is part of Birmingham's bid team and has confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that cricket would be of interest if they are successful. Snowball was previously head of sports operations at the 2012 Olympics and chief operating officer of Rugby 2015, the organising committee behind the 2015 World Cup.

The plan would be to stage the biggest games at Warwickshire's home ground of Edgbaston, which is only a mile or so from the centre of Birmingham. Other games could be played at Warwickshire's Portland Road ground (three miles from Edgbaston) and, perhaps, in neighbouring counties; Worcestershire's picturesque New Road ground is only 33 miles away.

Birmingham would also require ECB approval. But Andrew Strauss, the director of the England team, suggested the idea had his backing, though he did offer a note of caution. "Yes, I would be very supportive of that," he said. "But it would not just be the ECB involved in such a decision."

That signals a change of heart from the ECB. The Commonwealth Games Federation invited the ICC to participate in the 2018 Games (to be staged in Gold Coast, Australia), but were rebuffed largely on the basis of the reluctance of individual boards - not least the ECB - to compromise their own lucrative schedules.

Sixteen teams entered the 1998 Commonwealth Games, but England did not send a team as the competition clashed with the end of the domestic season. Seven of the then nine Test teams did, however, with Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and New Zealand among them. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, Jamaica, Canada, Malaysia, Kenya and Zimbabwe were the other participants.

The current ECB management are more aware of the need to reengage the sport with a broader audience, however, and keen to spread the appeal of cricket both locally and globally.

The example of Rugby Sevens is intriguing. After featuring in the 1998 Commonwealth Games, the sport eventually progressed until it debuted in the 2016 Olympics. While many obstacles remain before cricket could be realistically considered for the Olympics, the ECB's change of heart would appear to have removed a substantial one and nudged the sport a little further in that direction. Rome had signalled a desire to host cricket at the 2024 Olympics, but has withdrawn from the bidding process.

What stance India will take on the issue remains unclear. Anurag Thakur, the recently jettisoned president of the BCCI, had been seen as an impediment to cricket's reintroduction into the Olympics (it was played in the 1900 Paris Olympics; Great Britain beat France in the only match) but is also a vice-president of the Indian Olympic Association and was recently elected as the Himachal Olympic Association president.

Other cities expected to bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games include Liverpool, Edmonton in Canada and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. A decision on whether Liverpool or Birmingham will be put forward as England's candidate will be made later this year. A final decision on the host venue is unlikely to be made before November 2019.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • PadMarley on February 18, 2017, 5:38 GMT

    Why do we need commonwealth games in the first place ????? This is 2017

  • cricfan36746511 on February 17, 2017, 10:41 GMT

    T20 best format should be focus on. ODI format not making any meaningful for me?. Playing whole day and its affected some time due to rain. ICC please focus on T20 and make cricket famous like football?.

  • cricfan14801231 on February 17, 2017, 10:28 GMT

    For Sure ICC should work out a calendar , to enable cricket to be included in the Common wealth, Asian, European Games and Olympics. T20 is a great format for the exhibition and drawing of audience and Like Chess, Cricket is the only other sport to have three different formats ..so right move to globalise with T20 and draw more people for One day and Test.....

  • aun.yousuf on February 17, 2017, 8:38 GMT

    A great decision, finally some concrete steps for Cricket globalization

  • Sbl on February 17, 2017, 6:41 GMT

    Want cricket in Commonwealth games as well as in Olympic. Cricket must be globalized. ICC please be active.

  • ajithabey on February 17, 2017, 4:01 GMT

    As most commonwealth countries play cricket it is time for ICC to make it a global sport instead of confining it to a few countries. Why wait till 2026 when cricket could be introduced at the next commonwealth games onwards and then focus on getting the game into the Olympics which is the greatest event of our planet.These two events will definitely bring out the true World Champions instead of the so called Cricket World Cup which is limited to a few countries.

  • Sharkman84 on February 17, 2017, 2:31 GMT

    It would be a very positive step for the game for me. It's time to scrap the World T20 and have the Commonwealth Games and then the Olympics as the pinnacle of the T20 formats. It's time for cricket's closed shop to be blown wide open. It's the greatest game on earth and the rest of the world should know about it.

  • Victoriancricketer on February 16, 2017, 23:55 GMT

    This could mean money to country cricket associations which could be huge for development.

  • cricfan44810102 on February 16, 2017, 22:42 GMT

    Cricket lovely cricket the more the merryer, spread the game let countries play it can only be good for the game.

  • cricfan44810102 on February 16, 2017, 21:44 GMT

    Cricket should be looking to expand and t20 in a tournement like this is a great idea. Ps Northern Ireland had a better group final standing than India,in 1998.

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