INCHEON: The head of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has launched a scathing attack on India over its refusal to enter a cricket team at the Asian Games, saying its decision was “killing” the sport.
Twenty20 Cricket was added to the Asian Games programme four years ago as a way to try and promote the sport in the region.
But India, the world's richest and most influential cricketing nation, has steadfastly refused to send a men's or women's team to either the 2010 or the 2014 Asian Games.
The Indian cricket board (BCCI) said its players were too busy with their other commitments. The Asian Games, which ended in South Korea on Saturday, clashed with the lucrative Champions League Twenty20 taking place in India.
But the OCA president, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, said India's stance was short-sighted and damaging the game.
“They are killing cricket, limiting the NOCs (National Olympic Committees) participating in cricket and killing the market,” Sheikh Ahmad told a news conference at the Asian Games on Saturday.
“Sorry to say this as a sports fan, but this is the reality. This is why cricket is only a Commonwealth sport.”
India has also opposed the inclusion of cricket at other multi-sports events, including the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games, a stance that has put them at odds with other cricketing nations and players. Sri Lanka, the current Twenty20 world champions, sent a team to the Asian Games and won the men's gold medal, beating Afghanistan in the final.
Pakistan won the women's gold medal for the second time on a row, but followed India's lead and did not send a men's team because many of its best players are competing in the big-spending Champions League. Australia's players have been very vocal in arguing that cricket should be on the Olympic programme but the International Cricket Council (ICC) has been opposed to the idea.
Sheikh Ahmad, one of the most powerful men in the Olympic movement, said the OCA could not force India to compete at the Asian Games but he was disappointed by its stance.
“When we put a sport in a programme, we always wish to have the top athletes here,” he said.
“I'm sorry that the Indian delegate did not attend. We have to respect their own request.
“The people in charge want money. This is not a sport, this is business,” the OCA chief said.
“I hope in future they will understand to keep it as your baby in your chest -- it's not your personal toy, it's the people's game and you have to deliver it for the people.
“You can be rich by the game but you have to cover the other sector, and this is why cricket is still only a Commonwealth sport,” he added.
The increasing influence of India's mega-rich Twenty20 leagues has come under widespread criticism in recent years with former players and administrators complaining it has become too powerful and could be fuelling corruption in the game.
Just last month, former England all-rounder Ian Botham called for the Indian Premier League (IPL) to be scrapped because it was taking players away from representing their own countries.
Botham said he also feared that the IPL could unwittingly fuel corruption and gambling -- a scourge which has tarnished the sport's image in recent years.
The current chairman of the ICC is Narayanaswami Srinivasan, an Indian industrialist who is currently being investigated over a betting scam on IPL matches.
Earlier this year, Srinivasan was ordered by India's top court to stand down as president of the BCCI after his son-in-law was indicted for illegal betting on IPL.
“Corruption is enough of a problem in itself, but the IPL compounds that problem given it provides the perfect opportunity for betting and therefore fixing,” Botham said.