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With women's cricket set for CWG debut, will ICC's Olympic cause get a boost?

Women's cricket is set to debut during the Commonwealth Games 2022. Meanwhile, ICC would be hoping that it boosts its Olympic cause.

With women's cricket set for CWG debut, will ICC's Olympic cause get a boost?-ayh
Birmingham, First Published Jul 23, 2022, 9:15 AM IST

Women cricketers will experience the vibe of a multi-sporting event for the first time, as the sport aims to forge global eyeballs when it makes its much-awaited return to the Commonwealth Games (CWG) after 24 years. With all the top cricketing nations part of the Commonwealth, cricket's inclusion in the 2022 CWG seems natural. Yet, it took more than a couple of decades for the sport to come back. The only time cricket featured in the CWG was in 1998 during the Kuala Lumpur Games, where the men's version of the sport was played.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is pushing for the game's inclusion in the 2028 Los Angeles (LA) Olympics and will be hoping that the women's cricket event turns out to be a roaring success in Birmingham. It would allow ICC to make a stronger pitch for its inclusion during the Summer Games in LA.

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With the Indian and Pakistan communities forming an extensive part of Birmingham's population, one can expect to see a sell-out crowd at the Edgbaston for the marquee matches, including the Indo-Pak tie on July 31. "The India-Pakistan game will be one of the highlights of the Commonwealth Games," Birmingham Games CEO Ian Reid suspected.

Although England and Australia are not in the same group, the fans expect the sides to meet in the knock-out stages, while the tickets have already been sold out for the semifinals and final. The players are usually confined to their hotels during their bilateral contests. However, CWG would allow them to interact with athletes of other sports.

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The cricketers will not be accommodated in the Games Village and the rest of the international athletes due to logistical reasons. Still, they will undoubtedly be part of the opening ceremony and can watch a sport of their choice during their downtime. "I am excited about the Commonwealth Games. For me, it is like competing in a World Cup. I have been preparing it for a long time now," Indian all-rounder Deepti Sharma had told PTI recently.

The eight participating teams are sorted into a couple of groups of four teams each. Group A encloses India, Pakistan, Australia and Barbados, while Group B incorporates England, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The competition will also indicate where all teams stand ahead of their ICC T20 World Cup campaign in the coming year.

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Australia has been the benchmark in limited-overs format for a while now, thanks to being the reigning champion. England is a trace behind its arch-rival Australia, while the likes of India, New Zealand and South Africa are still progressing. Over the last two years, India has lost four series in a row before eventually winning one, which happened to be against an under-prepared Sri Lanka last month.

Under the leadership of Harmanpreet Kaur, India was expected to run through an opponent that had hardly played any cricket in the last couple of years. Yet, Lanka still managed to win a game in the series. Like the men's game, women's cricket is evolving rapidly, and India needs to catch up.

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"India needs to look at CWG as another tournament. The vibe will be different as it is not an ICC event. The players will be part of the entire Indian contingent. They would surely want to win a medal for the country, but you have to be realistic as well," former India captain Anjum Chopra communicated.

"There are better teams which are part of the competition. Also, India has not had a great run of late in playing away T20 games. It is a progressive team. It is still trying to find its best combination. They have to find their style of play, and they are far from it at the moment. You don't have the same depth as the men's team. The set-up we have at the moment -- somebody is running, somebody is walking, and somebody is leaping, you can't have a mixed bag like that," she said.

The CWG 2022 cricket event begins with the India-Australia tie on July 29, while later, on the same day, Pakistan opens its campaign against Barbados. All games, including the final on August 7, will be played at Edgbaston.

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