On the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, host Yas Rana and Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine editor Jo Harman were joined by French-born football journalist Philippe Auclair.
One of the key topics of discussion was how the game can grow across the world, with Philippe advocating for its inclusion in the Olympics. In August last year, MCC world cricket committee chairman Mike Gatting revealed the ICC’s hopes for the game’s inclusion at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Should that materialise, it would see cricket’s return to the Summer Olympics for the first time since 1900.
Philippe Auclair: One of my great bones of contention is the fact that the ICC completely gave up on its mission, its role and its duty to be an ambassador for the game in parts of the world where it is not played, because believe me, people would be playing it if it was encouraged and we didn’t have this stupid tier system ranking nations the way they are at the moment. It’s completely wrong. It’s always been a big, big bone of contention for me. Cricket could be and should be a universal sport, but nothing has been done to promote it properly in so-called non-traditional cricket countries. That’s a big disappointment, I think.
Jo Harman: Do you think the Olympics would be a good route to do that?
PA: Absolutely… I can’t see why this game shouldn’t be present at the Olympics. I mean, golf has been talked about [it returned after a 112-year gap at the 2016 Olympics], for goodness sake. And baseball – that’s crazy. That’s utterly crazy. Yes, baseball is popular in the US, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Japan – that’s it. Cricket is popular in far more countries and it’s got to be promoted. If you want cricket to carry on in countries like Holland or Denmark, which have been outposts of the game for a very long time – very little has been done to help them, which I find very frustrating.
Not to support the grassroots game is a dereliction of duty. I get very angry when I talk about that. Honestly, I think cricket could genuinely become a universal sport, it deserves to be and it would make the world a better place.
Yas Rana: Other than it appearing in the Olympics, how else would you promote cricket to parts of the world where it’s not that prominent at the moment?
PA: It’s as simple as investing in infrastructure. Cricket equipment doesn’t come cheap and it’s sometimes very, very difficult to find. And you should encourage that. In countries where there’s already a strong cricket tradition, like Kenya for example, you should do more for the game there. You should do more for the game in Afghanistan, even though there have been things done there. I would take the example of Corfu. I know Corfu quite well, and Corfu cricket is also a very important part of the Corfu identity. The surfaces they play on are just not right and they don’t have the proper equipment. And it’s just the possibility of having nets. Imagine you’re in the Czech Republic and you want to start a cricket club – and there are cricket clubs in the Czech Republic – how difficult it is to put things together. A little bit of help, and that’s financial help, would go a long way. And then a programme of coaching. It’s the thing that’s been done in, I would imagine, most other sports, particularly in football. It’s one of the things FIFA actually does quite well.
By promoting the game of cricket, you increase the audience of cricket and, therefore, increase the commercial potential of cricket. It’s one way of looking at the game which is completely missing from the plans of the governing bodies.
The Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast is available on Spotify and the Podcast app.