USA wicketkeeper-batsman Akeem Dodson has issued a plea to global administrators to work towards supporting an ICC application for cricket's inclusion in the 2024 Summer Olympics, calling the Olympics "the grand stage of sport". Dodson's comments were made after Patrick Sandusky of the USOC told ESPNcricinfo in a recent interview that "Twenty20 cricket at least is a very natural fit" in the Olympics, though the ICC remains ambivalent to the idea.
"I pray weekly, daily for cricket in the Olympics," Dodson told ESPNcricinfo. "Right now USA is in the lower league and we have to work our way up. Cricket in the Olympics would mean cricket on a world stage where USA starts on a level playing field.
"Everyone will start at level zero and we will now look to make whatever dreams we can come true from there. I believe that team USA, given that platform and a clean slate, cricket in the Olympics, I think we could [win a] medal. That is the prospect you all want. Can the USA win American gold at cricket? Hell yeah we can."
The 28-year-old from New York was USA's leading scorer at the World T20 Qualifier last summer in Scotland and Ireland, with 165 runs in six games as USA won three and lost three to narrowly miss out on qualifying. Encouraged by an improved on-field performance, the ICC unveiled a strategic plan for USA late last year setting targets for the 2019 World Cup, the 2020 World T20 as well as making a bid for hosting a future World T20, as early as 2024.
However, USA might alternately play a role in a push for cricket at the Olympics if Los Angeles wins the hosting rights for the 2024 Summer Games. When asked if he would rather reach a maiden World T20 or an Olympic T20 tournament for USA, Dodson did not hesitate to state his preference.
"Olympic T20. Even though playing a World T20 competition is something very commendable and it is the grand stage of world cricket, the Olympics is the grand stage of sport," Dodson said. "That's where we want to play, that's where every athlete dreams of playing, to do it at the Olympics.
"Everyone always says you are a national representative when you're playing for USA and you're a representative to US cricket, but we would truly feel like national representatives if we played cricket as an Olympic sport for Team USA. That would be a dream come true. A US Olympian, that part of it is the most important. A lot of people are able to say they've played a sport but to say that you've done it at an Olympic level, that is unbelievable almost. To have that experience with you and to remember everything that goes along with the Olympics - the Olympic village and the opening ceremony - doing all of that would be unforgettable."
Dodson would be 36 by the time the 2024 Summer Olympics rolls around and his reputation as a fitness workhorse means he would still have a realistic chance to be part of a USA team, if cricket were to successfully gain inclusion in the Olympics. He is convinced that helping the USA qualify for a spot in an Olympic T20 competition would galvanise the sport's growth around his country and the world. It is why he is pleading for administrators elsewhere and in ICC circles to come around to the idea of submitting an application to the International Olympic Committee.
"Cricket was in the Olympics a long time ago, in the early 1900s," Dodson said. "What can I say to you to make you want to put cricket in the Olympics? Please, do I have to beg? Cricket is the kind of sport that once you learn to love it, the passion and the feeling that cricket gives you, I haven't experienced it anywhere else.
"The amount of American spirit that we could generate and create in this beautiful game, it would be paramount. It would take over the world. Please let us play the Olympics."