Prince Imran makes Games plea

Haroon Lorgat at the ICC annual conference Getty Images

Cricket could return to the Commonwealth Games as early as 2018 if the International Cricket Council (ICC) accepts an invitation from the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

HRH Prince Imran of Malaysia, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation, made a presentation to the ICC board on Wednesday, inviting cricket into the 2018 Commonwealth Games, to be held on the Gold Coast in Australia, and the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games, which will be held in St Lucia.

Cricket has been included in the Commonwealth Games just once - in Malaysia in 1998 - when South Africa won gold by defeating Australia (silver) in the final. New Zealand won bronze. The Games have a worldwide TV audience of over 400 million.

"I gave the ICC board a brief introduction to the Commonwealth Games," Prince Imran told ESPNcricinfo. "I told them that the feeling from our AGM in St Kitts in November was that we were keen to have cricket back in the Games and, with Australia hosting in 2018, that might present an ideal opportunity.

"I hope this will be a win-win situation. Including cricket within the Commonwealth Games would present an opportunity to showcase the sport not just to a new audience, but to other sports administrators. Just as Rugby 7s got into the Olympics after making a good impression in the Commonwealth Games, so could cricket.

"But the greatest benefit of inclusion is not commercial; it is about the globalisation of the game. I believe inclusion within the Commonwealth Games would be particularly beneficial for the development of the women's game. It would provide a high-profile tournament for them to take part in."

While there is little opposition to cricket's inclusion in the Commonwealth Games on principle, the practical obstacles remain substantial. Even if the Future Tours Programme left room for another event and even if the issues with long-term broadcast contracts could be resolved, the fact is that the 2018 Commonwealth Games are scheduled for the prime weeks of the IPL; between April 4 and 15.

Such is the CGF's desire to see cricket included within the Games, however, they stressed to the ICC that they would be happy to see the "best available" players selected.

"We understand that the cricket schedule is very busy," Prince Imran continued "and selection, of course, is the prerogative of the board. We would understand if the players selected were the best available.

"I am sure that the players would like to participate. Shaun Pollock and Steve Waugh both appeared in the Games in 1998, while Sir Viv Richards was there as team manager of the Antigua side: I know they all enjoyed and valued the experience."

The ICC will now investigate the costs and benefits of inclusion in multi-sports games, with Prince Imran not anticipating a formal response until the next ICC board meeting in October.