Hong Kong came close to a medal at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, losing to Bangladesh in a play-off for third and fourth place. Photo: Nora Tam

Future of cricket at the Asian Games hangs in the balance

Crucial for Hong Kong to bat on at Jakarta in 2018 but hosts not keen on the code, though regional Olympic Council hopes to change their minds

The future of cricket at the Asian Games hangs in the balance after the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) delayed a decision on the sport's exclusion from the next edition of the multisports event in Jakarta in 2018.

It is crucial for Hong Kong that the sport remains in the Asian Games as it allows the code to get support from the Hong Kong Sports Institute, which in the past funded a few players under the Individual Athletes Support Scheme.

Cricket's chances are not dead yet. I think the OCA wants it in [the Asian Games] for marketing and television revenue
Olympic Council of Asia source

But the Indonesian Olympic Committee, the organisers of the Jakarta Asian Games, are not keen on having cricket as a medal sport and have not listed it among the six sports they can include by right of being the hosts of the Games.

However, the OCA is keen to include cricket and deferred a decision at last week's executive council meeting in Tehran, leaving it until September in an apparent attempt to change the minds of the organising panel.

"Cricket's chances are not dead yet," said an OCA insider. "I think the OCA wants it in for marketing and television revenue. There is an OCA team going next month [to Jakarta] for another look and in August we will have a second coordination committee meeting which will make the recommendations.

"The OCA general assembly in September in Turkmenistan will then finalise the sports programme for the Asian Games."

Hong Kong's Aizaz Khan fires a delivery in their match against Bangladesh at the Asian Games in Incheon. Photo: Nora Tam
Cricket, the Twenty20 version, was at the last two Asian Games - 2010 in Guangzhou and 2014 in Incheon - with both men's and women's competitions. Bangladesh won gold in the men's event in Guangzhou and Sri Lanka took gold in Incheon.

"We know that negotiations are still ongoing and we remain hopeful that cricket will indeed be included in the Asian Games," said Mike Walsh, chairman of the Hong Kong Cricket Association.

"Cricket is one of Asia's leading participation sports, and far and away the biggest in many areas, and so I hope this will prove crucial in the final count."

A maximum of 34 sports will be included at the Jakarta Games - the 28 Olympic sports plus six other non-Olympic sports, which is usually left to the organising committee to pick.

Bangladesh players celebrate victory over Afghanistan to win cricket gold at the Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010. Photo: AFP
Although the programme is not yet confirmed, the six non-Olympic sports in the 34-sport programme proposed are: sepak takraw, kabaddi, squash, martial arts (including wushu, karate, jujitsu and pencak silat), extreme sports (paragliding and sport climbing) and bridge or (tenpin) bowling.

With Jakarta coming on board as a late replacement for Hanoi in Vietnam, which had originally been awarded the Games but pulled out due to financial constraints, the OCA has allowed the Indonesian organisers to host the event in two cities to defray costs - Jakarta and Palembang, the capital city of south Sumatra province.

If cricket is included it will be played in Palembang as there are no facilities in Jakarta.

Baseball and softball would be played at Jakabaring Sports City in Palembang, and it is understood cricket can be staged at the same venue.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Cricket faces uphill fight for Asian Games