Illustration: Edd Aragon.
IN AUGUST I had a pint in a north London pub with Rahul Dravid. His was a surprise appearance at the beer garden table where Fairfax Media reporters, photographers and editors were gathered for drinks and dinner on the final night of the Olympic Games. A friend of a friend of a colleague.
Dravid was in town primarily for a meeting of the MCC World Cricket Committee, a body of current and former players - of which he is one - that gather to tackle the major issues in the game.
Naturally, though, the conversation turned to India's performance at the Olympics. Dravid had been to watch his compatriots at the boxing, shooting and hockey and reported that while India had collected a couple of silver medals and a smattering of bronze, there had been no gold to celebrate for the nation's 83 athletes. That is nothing out of the ordinary. India has only once been to the top of the dais since Moscow 32 years ago. Little wonder that despite Dravid's interest while in London, there is a general indifference to the Games in the world's second most populated country.
The point of this is to revisit the idea of cricket at the Olympics, a concept that has gathered momentum before. Two years ago it was recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee, the first step to gaining admission - but has been stifled by intransigence at the top levels of cricket administration. Senior figures at the IOC want Twenty20 cricket in the Games.
Imperialism is the reason. They have been down this path before, introducing badminton in Barcelona in 1992 in an effort to awaken the sleeping giant that was China. That's been achieved and now the IOC wants the subcontinent.
Not one of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, which have a total population of 1.7 billion, took home gold this year. If cricket was in the Games the masses there would be glued to televisions, and the movement might just take off. Three-hour matches, they could even be played in the main stadium, before the athletics starts.
If that stands as a victory for the IOC, then cricket has much to gain as well. Opponents will argue the game is not truly international and there is already too much cricket anyway. But the ICC is in the process of rationalising that, reducing stand-alone Twenty20 internationals and possibly bringing all one-day internationals under the World Cup banner as qualifiers. Major events, nestled between the meaningless, are cricket's pinnacle and this would be another one.
Adam Gilchrist and Kumar Sangakkara are among the luminaries who have endorsed cricket's inclusion.
The greatest beneficiaries of the sport getting a run at the Games could be women cricketers. Australia's Southern Stars are world champions but do not enjoy even the same profile as other national sides such as the Opals and Hockeyroos. Imagine the publicity boost they would get if Meg Lanning and co. showcased their skills and became Olympic champions.
Just about every major professional international sport is now on board with the Olympics. Golf and rugby (sevens) will return in Rio de Janiero in 2016, joining soccer, basketball, tennis and road cycling in the summer program, and baseball wants back in for 2020. Cricket, on sheer numbers the second most popular sport in the world, is the odd one out.
But while IOC president Jacques Rogge is open to an application, saying last year he ''loved the game'', it must first get past the the ICC and the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
The BCCI doesn't want to hand over control of its team to its poorly run Olympic committee, while in England the concern is the Olympic slot in the calendar overlaps with their home summer.
In the Caribbean the stumbling block is that the West Indies would have to play as more than a dozen countries.
What is certain is cricket will not be there in 2020 - the paperwork has not been lodged in time. Cricket's next opportunity will be the 2024 Olympics, for which a bid must be submitted by 2015.
The game should get its act together and throw its hat in the rings.