T20 cricket could be included in 2022 Common wealth Games

Women’s T20 cricket is strongly in the running to be admitted as a new sport to the schedule at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.

A joint bid between the International Cricket Council and England and Wales Cricket Board was submitted last week before a vital presentation to the organising committee of the event next Monday. If an endorsement is won at that stage, the Commonwealth Games Federation will then make the final decision, to be ratified by September next year.

According to the submission, Edgbaston would be the primary venue for the eight-team competition, with county grounds at Worcester, Derbyshire and Leicester under consideration to serve as the secondary host during the group stages.

That each of the games would be broadcast live on BBC television has been described as “an absolute game-changer” by Clare Connor, the director of England Women’s Cricket. She has been steering the process from an ECB perspective in collaboration with an ICC working group led by Iain Higgins, the governing body’s chief operating officer.

“One of the things we have noticed is the more we have worked on this, the more passionate and committed people have become,” Connor told the Guardian.

“People really tune into Olympic and Commonwealth Games, watching sports they normally wouldn’t watch and are inspired by them. So it would be a different audience from a typical cricket tournament. So the benefits for women’s cricket are very obvious.”

The sport stood a strong chance of admission for the original host city for 2022, Durban. When the shift to Birmingham was decided upon at the start of 2018, the formal process started again. Sports that are seeking admission alongside women’s cricket are archery, shooting, para-table tennis and volleyball but they will not be competing for a fixed number of spots – the organising committee can give the green light to any contender that meets its criteria.

Cricket has featured in the Commonwealth Games once before, at Kuala Lumpur in 1998. Then, it was a men’s 50-over competition only with South Africa beating Australia in the gold medal match. As Connor explains, one strength of the current pitch is that it is a women’s competition, as only 40% of Commonwealth Games athletes are currently female.

“I hope our bid will be strong because it fits with what the Commonwealth Games are looking to do around equality,” she said. “One of their three core values is equality and they are, like most organisations or sports in a healthy place, looking to create more opportunities for female athletes and this would mean eight teams of female athletes. It is also really powerful that women’s cricket could be in on its own, standing there in its own right.”

The top-eight ranked T20 sides would be granted qualification. The complication, as it was in 1998, is West Indies, who represent several nations. It is understood they would be asked to nominate one country from the region to take part as an imperfect solution to the problem.

The paperwork submitted the Friday before last will be augmented with a series of visual presentations next Monday and Tuesday to Birmingham 2022 decision-makers. Mindful of how important this will be, the ICC will be represented by David Richardson, their chief executive. The board of the organisation has already given the bid its full support.

“We have submitted a really strong case,” Connor said. “We are a sport with such an amazing heritage but are also looking to be modern and be dynamic and inclusive too, just as the Commonwealth are. We are a sport that is constantly proving itself and growing in audience, fans and media engagement. So for all those reasons, I am confident. We have a chance to stand in front of them next week and really bring this to life.”