India to skip Asian Games again
The BCCI has continued to stay away from multinational games by refusing to field the women's and the men's cricket teams in the forthcoming Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea from September 19 to October 4.
According to the list of participating teams for the men's and women's cricket events, India is the only Test nation from Asia to not participate. While Pakistan have entered only in the women's event, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will be playing in both categories. Even after the list of participating teams was made public on the Asian Cricket Council's website, BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel said the board, "was considering whether to be a part of Asian Games".
The BCCI's decision not to enter a men's team might be explained by the fact that the Asian Games clash with the Champions League Twenty20, to be played in India from September 13 to October 4. With four IPL teams participating in the tournament, the cream of Indian cricket will be playing for their franchises.
India Women, however, have no fixtures at the same time as the Asian Games but ESPNcricinfo understands the issue of sending the team was not discussed in recent BCCI meetings. Some board sources confirmed the Asian Games was never discussed in any of the working committee meetings over the last year. Ahead of the previous Asian Games in Guangzhou, the BCCI had announced its decision to skip the event well in advance.
"The men could be busy with other commitments, but it is perplexing to see the women's team not playing," former India Women's captain Diana Eduljee said. "A medal at the Asian Games would have not only brought financial rewards and perks from the government to women cricketers but also given them glory and respect. It is another indication the BCCI isn't really interested in running and spreading women's cricket."
Over the last decade, India Women have slipped in performance and finished seventh in the 2013 World Cup despite playing at home. Former captain Anjum Chopra said the dip in standards was because of the reduced number of international games.
"It's not just the Asian Games, but any international assignment is important for the women's team at the moment," Chopra said. "Over the last few years, India have been playing the least number of matches among the top six nations. Even Sri Lanka and South Africa have started playing much more than they used to, which has resulted in improvement in their rankings and the results are showing. So the Indian women's team must be given as much exposure as possible."
In 2010, Bangladesh won gold in the men's event after India had skipped the games, while Pakistan won the women's event. The PCB has sent their women's team this time as well.
Because cricket is a not an Olympic sport and the PCB is not affiliated to the Pakistan Sports Board, the PCB has to bear the cost of participation in the Asian Games. So, rather than fielding the men's team, the PCB believed it was more worthwhile to spend on the women's team, which is a developing unit. The fact that they are defending champions was another factor behind the PCB backing its women cricketers.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, decided to play in the men's category for the first time. SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga said they would be sending a full-strength side for the event.
"It is important to utilise as many opportunities available for our national team and we are doing just that," Ranatunga said. "Even though some of our players will be competing in the Champions League, we will select the best squad from the pool of available players."
For Bangladesh, defending the gold medal they won in Guangzou is on top of the priority list for the BCB. "It was Bangladesh's first ever gold medal at Asian Games, so it is not just important for cricket but for all sports in the country," BCB director Jalal Yunus said. "The Asian Games is taken seriously by the BCB. It gives us an opportunity to play a T20 tournament, as we don't get to play too many tournaments in this format. We feel there is a need to play more tournaments."
Despite a tour to West Indies just before the games, the BCB is likely to send a full-strength squad.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. With inputs from Umar Farooq and Mohammad Isam