Oman Cricket a role model for associate nations: ICC chairman

Muscat: The giant strides and development made by Oman Cricket (OC) over the past few years have been taken notice by the cricket world. Be it the infrastructure development at the Oman Cricket Academy grounds in Al Amerat or the performances of the national team, Oman has made an impressive start.

So it was hardly a surprise when Greg Barclay, the independent chair of the International Cricket Council (ICC), gave a thumbs up to Oman Cricket (OC) during his recent visit to the Sultanate.

In a video call interview after concluding his brief visit, Barclay said, “Oman Cricket has made very good progress in the recent years. It was great to witness the excellent facilities at the Oman Cricket Academy.”

“Oman Cricket’s overall progress can be a role model for the rest of the associate nation members. I was impressed with the lovely ground and the facilities there in Al Amerat. Oman Cricket is a good example for other countries to emulate.”

Barclay, who was elected as the independent chair of the ICC in November 2020, is nearing his two-year tenure and the New Zealander termed his experience as  ‘satisfying’.

The former chief of New Zealand Cricket said, “Credit to Oman for developing such world-class facilities. The teams have also done fairly well and it is encouraging to see Oman Cricket focussing on women’s cricket and targeting grassroots development. Oman Cricket Chairman Pankaj Khimji and his team are passionate in the progress of the game and I wish them the very best.”

Barclay reiterated ICC’s strong intention to have cricket included as one of the disciplines at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

International Cricket Council has already constituted an Olympic Working Group to have cricket as part of the Olympic Games.  

Cricket was played only once at the Olympic Games in 1900 and that too had only the men’s competition. Since then it has not been part of the Summer Olympics.

“One of our strategic priorities is to have cricket included at the LA Olympics. The decision will be made by the IOC in consultation with the local organising committee of 2028 Los Angeles Games. We will put our best foot forward to convince them and hope to see cricket being played at the Games.

“We see the Olympics as a part of cricket’s long-term future. We have more than a billion fans globally and they are as keen as us to see cricket at the Olympics.

“Cricket has a strong and passionate fanbase, particularly in South Asia where majority of our fans come from. But we also have lot of cricket fans in the USA. The opportunity for those fans to see their heroes competing for an Olympic medal is exciting.

“We believe cricket would be a great addition to the Olympic Games. We realise it won’t be easy to secure our inclusion as there are so many other sports out there wanting to do the same. But we feel now is the time to show what a great partnership cricket and the Olympics could be.”

Growth of shorter format
The ICC chairman admitted that the growth of white-ball cricket is putting a lot of pressure on the Future Tours Programme (FTP) calendar. “It is important to find a balance between the white-ball cricket and Test cricket. Due to economic considerations, we find that the shorter format is gaining more and more emphasis.

“Test cricket will be compromised in future given the growth of the shorter format. But we are aware that Test cricket is a legacy we need to safeguard and that’s certainly challenge ahead,” the Kiwi said.

Barclay said, “As far as the World Test Championship (WTC) goes, it is still not perfect in the current format. Discussions are on to make it even better.”

Over the past two years,  ICC faced enormous challenges due to the global pandemic but Barclay was satisfied that the game overcame them to a large extent.

“We are growing globally and will continue to do so. We recently sold the media rights to telecast ICC tournaments till 2027 for US$3 billion. It underlines the interest for the game. We would now like to have more fans engagement on digital platforms ahead.

“The ICC T20 World Cup in 2024, which will be co-hosted by West Indies and USA, will feature 20 teams for the first time. We know that the inclusion of more teams is great for the growth of the game but it comes with a huge responsibility. We want the Associate nations to gear up well to compete with the best. We wouldn’t like to see lop-sided matches. To ensure that the Associate nations perform well, they need to invest time, money and effort and ICC will back them strongly.”

The Kiwi feels white-ball cricket is the future due to its popularity among fans and broadcasters.

“If you look at strategically the way that cricket is going, there’s no doubt that white-ball cricket, short-form cricket, is the way of the future. “That’s the game that’s sought after by fans, that’s where the broadcasters are putting their resource, it’s what’s driving the money,” Barclay said.

Barclay said that he is open to take up the responsibility of becoming the ICC independent chair for another term if the board members entrust him with the role.

“I am ready to shoulder the role for another term if the board members feel that I should carry on,” he said.

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