Asiad: Cricket launches desperate 2014 survival battle - Lead

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The Independent Online

Asian cricket chiefs on Friday launched a last-ditch campaign to save their sport from being axed at the 2014 Asiad in South Korea.

Cricket is making its Asian Games debut in Guangzhou on Saturday, but the game's image took a battering when global powerhouse India refused to send a team.

Incheon, the 2014 hosts, are also understood to be nervous about the costs of staging such a high-profile event in a nation where cricket has no foothold.

"It is rude and presumptious to suggest that cricket will not be part of the Asian Games anymore," Asian Cricket Council (ACC) spokesman Shahriar Khan told AFP in Gunagzhou.

"We have heard nothing definite against cricket being part of the Games, but we do understand Korean concerns at the costing, facilities and support staff for a sport they know little about.

"The ACC helped China financially and otherwise to get cricket off the ground in this country and we are ready to do the same in South Korea as well."

The alarm bells rang when cricket was omitted from Incheon's list of events proposed for the 2014 Games, released late Thursday.

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) decided last year that the number of sports in future Asian Games should not exceed 35, with 28 from the Olympic Games and a maximum of seven to reflect the sporting culture of Asia's five zones.

Incheon are hoping to include baseball, bowling, kabaddi, sepaktakraw, softball, squash and wushu alongside the 28 sports on the list for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

A decision on the Incheon line-up is set to be made at the OCA's general assembly here on Saturday.

"ACC chief executive Ashraful Huq wrote a letter to the OCA and the Korean organisers to assure them of our full support to conduct a cricket competition at Incheon," Khan told AFP.

"I am sure that letter will be discussed at the OCA general assembly."

Khan, asked how cricket can be accommodated as the OCA is keen to reduce the number of disciplines, said: "The OCA holds a lot of other events like the Beach Games, the Indoor Games, Winter Games etc.

"One solution being talked about is that indoor sports like martial arts, wushu etc can be shifted to the Indoor Games.

"That will then free up cricket to remain part of the Asian Games. After all, cricket is now a recognised Olympic sport.

"It will be sad for cricket to go, considering the support it has received in China," Khan said.

OCA honorary life vice-president Wei Jizhong insisted there was a future for cricket in the Games.

"It's very popular and very influential in Asia, especially in South Asia," he said, pointing to the women's tournament here already being sold out.

However, OCA vice-president Shin Yong Suk, who sits on the Incheon organising committee, said that South Korea does not even have a national cricket federation.

The 16th Asian Games, which get underway here on Friday, features 42 sports and 476 events with cricket being played for the first time.

Cricket was last seen at a major multi-sport event at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, but was dropped for the next three editions in England, Australia and India.

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