Cricket added as Asian Games sport

KUWAIT CITY: Cricket officially became an Asian Games sport Wednesday when it was approved by the Olympic Council of Asia, with India and Pakistan pledging to send their best available teams.

It will make its debut in Guangzhou next year.

Both men's and women's teams will participate in a Twenty20 format contest, with India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh automatically qualifying, along with host nation China.

Other countries will have to play a qualifying round to fight for three additional spots.

"India and Pakistan were the drivers. Pakistan and India will come with their best teams because it will be a big competition," said OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah after the organisation's general assembly.

"Asia?s four Test-playing nations have committed to sending their best available teams," he added.

The 2010 Asian Games will take place from November 12-27 in the southern Chinese city.

India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are all scheduled to play Test and one-day series that month, but the OCA said once a schedule for Guangzhou was in place "truly the best players for that format will be available".

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

Its only appearance at the Olympics was in Paris in 1900, where in a two-day match Great Britain -- represented by touring team Devon and Somerset Wanderers -- beat France, whose team mainly consisted of members of the British Embassy.

The Guangzhou Games will feature 42 disciplines, three more than at the last event in Doha, with dance sport, dragon boat racing, and roller sport added to the agenda. The Olympics have 28 disciplines.

More than 14,000 athletes from 45 countries are expected to take part.