After lobbying to include cricket in Asian Games, India opts out

NEW DELHI (AP) — Having lobbied to get cricket into the Asian Games, regional power India has decided against sending a team to Guangzhou due to a dispute over the quality of players available for selection.

The decision by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was a disappointment for games officials, India's Olympic Association and a setback in the sport's bid to spread its international reach via multi-sports events.

"The Asian Cricket Council worked really hard to get cricket included in the Asian Games but the Indian cricket board's decision is very disappointing," Indian Olympic Association secretary-general Randhir Singh said of the BCCI's decision.

Given the crowded cricket calendar — India is currently hosting a test series against New Zealand after playing two home tests against Australia while India was hosting the Commonwealth Games last month — it was always going to be difficult for the test-ranked Asian cricket nations to send first-choice squads to the Asian Games.

However, India elected to not even send a second-string squad despite its depth of talent, whereas Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will all send teams to help cricket make its debut in Guangzhou.

In the absence of a consensus about the quality of the team — Indian Olympic Association officials wanted top-class players — the BCCI announced it would not send teams to contest either the men's or the women's championship.

Bangladesh will be among the favorites for the Asian Games gold. While its team was not a first-choice lineup, it was expected to be the better of the teams from the other major Asian cricket nations.

Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates — two nations where cricket is improving — along with host China and Oman will be contenders for medals at the newly-built Guangdong University of Technology Stadium, where the pitch is being prepared by Bangladesh groundsman Jashim Uddin.

"It's been a tough road. But for a first-time effort, the facilities are excellent," Uddin was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper last month.

India has previously participated in cricket at multi-sports events. It took part in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia, when the BCCI split the top players between the Kuala Lumpur event and a series against Pakistan being played in Canada.

Sachin Tendulkar, regarded as India's greatest player, was in that Commonwealth Games squad but India was still no match for other full-strength sides. South Africa beat Australia in the final, with New Zealand taking the bronze medal.

However, cricket was not included in 2010 Commonwealth Games, held in New Delhi, due to BCCI reluctance.

The non-inclusion in the Commonwealth Games, and India's lack of participation in these Asian Games, will hurt efforts to have Twenty20 cricket included in the Olympic Games.

Without a presence in such multi-sports events, or the backing of the BCCI — which is financial powerbase of international cricket — it will be more difficult to have nations such as China keep up efforts to develop their own cricket programs.

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