David Owen

Are you watching, Thomas Bach?

The 2022 International Cricket Council (ICC) Men's T20 World Cup in Australia has barely got into its stride.

Yet already it has produced a match for the ages.

The weekend's Group 2 clash between Pakistan and India, fierce rivals in much beyond sport, was a mini Melbourne miracle of high-octane entertainment.

Played out in front of a massive, mesmerised multitude of over 90,000 at the monumental Melbourne Cricket Ground - better-known as the MCG, and already of course an Olympic venue - the match-up was won by India off the very last ball.

The decisive contribution was a transcendent 82 not out by India's Virat Kohli, perhaps the very best player to have graced the great game's stage over the past 10 years.

The knock combined perfect pacing, limpid clarity of thought under intense pressure and supreme skills over an extended period.

As someone expostulated on social media, you could write a book about the last over alone.

Virat Kohli played one of the great T20 innings versus Pakistan ©Getty Images
Virat Kohli played one of the great T20 innings versus Pakistan ©Getty Images

It would be remarkable, given some of the other fare clinging on to the sports programme, if the Olympic Movement does not get around once again to embracing cricket in what, in Olympic parlance, is the very short term.

If not Los Angeles 2028 - for which T20 is on a nine-sport short-list for inclusion - then surely Brisbane 2032.

I say this as someone who a) still much prefers long-form cricket and b) who readily acknowledges that limited-over formats produce their fair share of dull finishes.

But a) there is no way in which a game that can take 30 hours to complete is going to get anywhere near the world's greatest multi-sports event, and b) those T20 matches where the outcome is inevitable from a long way out serve to whet the appetite for humdingers like this Melbourne classic, which happen along with passing regularity in any case.

Not that the thrills and spills of the tightest encounters amount to the most compelling argument for cricket's Olympic return.

As all too often with elite sport nowadays, the most compelling argument is best expressed in dollars and cents.

Cricket would hand the International Olympic Committee (IOC) the key - arguably the only one in existence - to cracking the mammoth Indian market, along with the rest of the sub-continent.

At a time when costs are rising more quickly than the value of broadcasting rights, when consumers in most wealthy industrialised countries are under the cosh and when potential new, often tech-related, revenue streams are proving slow to ignite, why would you turn your back on that relatively easy and low-risk addition to the pot?

More than 90,000 watched India's thrilling victory over Pakistan ©Getty Images
More than 90,000 watched India's thrilling victory over Pakistan ©Getty Images

It is well-known that cricket has so far featured only once on an Olympic sports programme - all the way back in 1900 at the botched Paris Games.

What I had not appreciated until last week was that it might also have made the cut in 1908.

These fourth modern Olympics were originally awarded to Rome - a decision which delighted then-IOC President Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who judged the time ripe, as explained in his memoir, Une Campagne de Vingt-et-Un Ans, to think about re-establishing Ancient ties between sport and the arts.

When he visited the Italian capital in February 1905, before the Games were transferred to London, de Coubertin had great fun working out exactly where in the Eternal City events might be staged.

His scheme envisaged dividing events into four main groups.

Gymnastics and athletics would have been earmarked for the Piazza di Siena in Villa Borghese.

Clearly much taken, de Coubertin describes "a sort of ideal stadium, not as long as the one in Athens but wider, which seems to have been excavated naturally in the middle of an undulating meadow shaded by umbrella pines".

Shooting, equestrianism, polo, football and, yes, cricket were all to be housed at Tor di Quinto, described by the Baron as "a large sports-centre".

The ICC is lobbying for cricket to feature at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics ©Getty Images
The ICC is lobbying for cricket to feature at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics ©Getty Images

Fencing, wrestling and boxing would have gone to the "colossal ruins" of the third-century Baths of Caracalla, with swimming and rowing set for "the portion of the Tiber between Ponte Milvio and Ponte Regina Margherita".

De Coubertin further explained that tennis could be played at the club near the Porta del Popolo, with cycling on the city streets.

Car-racing and sailing would, it seems, have gone to Milan and Naples respectively, "so as to give the north and south of the peninsula an interest in the success of the Games".

Ceremonies and medal presentations could have been at the Capitol.

Use of the Colosseum had been discussed; however, wrote de Coubertin, "drenched in the blood of so many martyrs, the Colosseum can no longer be anything other than a place of pilgrimage".

I have encountered the occasional Italian cricketer in my time, but it is hard not to wonder how different things might have been.

As my learned colleague Philip Barker has revealed in a past insidethegames article, once the London 1908 team set about determining their sports programme, cricket was rejected along with pelota and baseball "because the practice of these games was too restricted in character for the purposes of an international competition".

That giant crowd which trooped into the MCG a few days ago in the hope of witnessing something special would beg to move that, 114 years on, this reservation no longer applies.