The Indian men’s cricket team is all set to make its debut in the prestigious Asian Games, following the decision by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to field them in the tournament. This move comes after media reports revealed the BCCI’s decision to include the men’s team alongside the women’s side in the upcoming mega sporting event, where cricket competitions will be held in the Twenty20 format. However, a scheduling conflict has arisen as the dates of the Asian Games clash with those of the ICC Cricket World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in India this year.
To address this conflict, the men’s team participating in the Asian Games will consist of its B squad, with no star cricketers being present in any of the teams. The Asian Games are slated to be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8, while the World Cup is scheduled to occur from October 5 to November 19.
In addition to the tournament matches, participating teams will be required to play warm-up matches. The BCCI is expected to submit its player list to the Indian Olympic Association by June 30.
According to Bhupender Bajwa, India’s chef de mission for the Asian Games, the Indian cricket team was initially hesitant to participate. Bajwa stated, “We have entries in all sports except one — cricket (team) isn’t going. They said they are preoccupied. We sent around 3-4 emails to them but when we had to send entries to the organizers, they said they won’t go,” as reported by an Indian media outlet.
Cricket was previously included in the Asian Games in 2010 and 2014 but was not part of the event in 2018. However, it has now been included in the Hangzhou Games. The tournament was originally scheduled to take place in China last year, but due to the COVID-19 restrictions, it was postponed.
This is not the first time that the BCCI has fielded two national teams simultaneously. In 1998, the board sent one team to participate in the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games and another to compete against Pakistan for the Sahara Cup. Similarly, in 2021, Shikhar Dhawan led a second-string team in Sri Lanka, while Virat Kohli captained a team in England.
Despite the board’s previous reluctance to participate in the Asian Games, citing preoccupations, the decision to include the Indian men’s cricket team marks a significant development for Indian cricket and opens up new opportunities for the players to showcase their skills on an international platform.