Olympics may be Lorgat's last legacy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am


It is perhaps fitting the Olympic brief will be one of the last tasks for Haroon Lorgat, chief executive of the International Cricket Council, who will step down at the ICC's annual conference in Kuala Lumpur in June.

'It is time to go, but there is one last significant job to do, oversee the initial evaluation study we have undertaken to see if cricket should be in the Olympics,' said Lorgat.

Lorgat has been at the helm since 2008 as the game has undergone huge challenges, ranging from terrorism in Pakistan to spot-fixing. His final challenge could well be to get the ball rolling for Twenty20 to be in the Olympics, perhaps in 2020?

'I tend not to set a time frame. First, let's do the initial evaluation and see if cricket becoming a medal sport is a good thing or not,' said Lorgat. 'In June we will make our first presentation to the executive board.'

Last June, the ICC annual conference in Hong Kong decided on key issues such as the number of teams at the 2015 World Cup (50 overs) in Australia and New Zealand and at this summer's Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. The Kuala Lumpur summit this year will decide if the Olympics should be a goal.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has already stated publicly that he would like to see cricket in the Games.

'Rogge has stated it, yes, and we have been engaged with the Olympic administration since then. They are keen to see cricket involved - the Twenty20 version. But we can't get too far ahead of ourselves. We will do a study, which has already commenced, and then present it to the board, which will then have to decide if we pursue the idea.

'In the past, we have simply made statements that maybe it would be good for cricket to be in the Olympics, but not really evaluated properly whether it is a good thing or not. Now we are looking into this matter seriously,' Lorgat said.

Like rugby sevens, which makes its Olympic debut in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, the IOC realises Twenty20 cricket also has huge value with its lucrative and huge television markets. Last weekend's Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens were televised in 150 countries with 18 of them broadcasting live. India, with its hundreds of millions of cricket-crazy fans, would make up such numbers alone if Twenty20 were in the Olympics.

Lorgat, 51, a South African chartered accountant, has been in the eye of one storm or another since he succeeded Malcolm Speed in 2008, and feels it is time now to step down.

'It's a taxing job, both physically and mentally,' Lorgat said. 'There is a lot of travelling involved, there are issues every day of the week, 24-7. I guess a tenure of four or five years is about right.'

Lorgat has faced many challenges, including the first terrorism attack on a cricket team - the Sri Lanka test squad on a tour of Pakistan in 2009 being assaulted by gunmen in Lahore - the spot-fixing saga of the Pakistani cricketers, the declining interest in test cricket as well as a perceived one in the 50-overs game.

'Having dealt decisively with the spot-fixing issues, delivered a highly successful ICC Cricket World Cup and adopted a new global strategy, I feel the time is right to move on as I believe all my personal goals have been met. The development programme is quite sound, we have undertaken a governance review and started to evaluate participation in the Olympics which is another milestone. Perhaps it is an opportune time for someone else to come in and take over,' he said.

Lorgat was also at the centre of the controversial decision to reduce the number of teams at the 2015 World Cup to 10, a decision later rescinded in Hong Kong last June. But it came at a cost, with the ICC reducing the number of associate nations at this September's Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka from six to two.

Lorgat insists it was not a penalty for having to backtrack on the 2015 decision. 'There was no trade-off. It was a comprehensive package of restructuring ICC events,' he said.

The highlight for Lorgat in his term was the success of the last 50-overs World Cup on the sub-continent. 'I have been in a privileged position and there have been many wonderful moments, but perhaps the one I will single out is how massively successful the last World Cup held across three countries [India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka] was.

'We had one of the host nations winning it, and most pleasing was that, once and for all, we settled the debate of whether the 50-overs format, which was in question, had a place in cricket. We have showed there is room for all three formats of the game, test, one-day internationals and Twenty20, and they can all exist side by side.'

If the Olympics comes into the picture he'll have to make that four.