In a country like India, the sport of cricket can hardly take a backseat. At a time when India was taking on England in the first Test at Nottingham as a part of the new World Test Championship cycle, Indian athletes were turning heads at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. And the nation embraced the Indian contingent at all hours possible with cricket taking the backseat for a while.
It came as a welcome change of sorts for a nation that is primarily gripped with one sport. Having said that, the sport has had a distant connection with the quadrennial event in a rather unassuming way.
Cricket was first played at the 1900 Paris Olympics with just two nations participating. Great Britain won the gold medal and France took home the silver. That was the first and the last occurrence of cricket featuring as an Olympic sport. While the former is credited with having invented the game and are the current world champions in the 50-over format, the latter failed to find a footing as a full-fledged cricket-playing nation.
Interestingly, there were a few athletes and officials at the Tokyo 2020 who seem to have a close or a distant connection with cricket.
Kamalpreet Kaur (Discus throw)
India’s discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur vowed the fans back home when she made it to the finals of the discus throw event at Tokyo 2020. However, she came sixth in the ultimate round that totally erased her medal expectations. Kaur loves playing cricket and practiced it alongside discus and preferred batting more as compared to bowling. It is a sport she has liked since childhood and the 25-year old by her own admission wants to represent the Indian women’s team some day.
“I like cricket more,” she was quoted as saying by SportStar.
“I’ll tell you something that nobody knows - I played cricket in January. I practised cricket along with the discus. I am fond of batting. I like fast bowling but the bowling action and discus action are different and there is a scope for injury. I yearn to play for the Indian women’s cricket team one day,” she said.
Coen van Bunge (Hockey)
Similarly Coen van Bunge, who officiated in the men’s hockey semi-final between India and Belgium, is the brother of Dutch cricketer Daan van Bunge. The cricketer is infamously known for getting smashed for six sixes in an over by South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs at the 2007 Cricket World Cup match.
Cricketer-turned javelin thrower, Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem is also on the list. Considering that Pakistan has been a heavyweight in the cricketing fraternity and still is one of the top teams, Nadeem’s affinity for cricket comes as no surprise. The 6”2’ athlete played U-17 cricket at the state level and was a fast bowler with a bowling action that resembled fast bowler Sohail Tanvir.
“I used both my arms but I was a right-hand fast bowler unlike Tanvir bhai. Like India, cricket is big in Pakistan but then I was introduced to javelin three years ago and ever since I have stopped following cricket,” Nadeem had told PTI after his bronze medal win at the 2018 Asian Games.
Presently, the International Cricket Council is pushing for a bid to feature cricket at the 2028 Summer Olympics.
Featured photo: Athletics Federation of India