Bangladesh cricket team players invade the ground to celebrate victory over Afghanistan in the final cricket match at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou on November 26, 2010.

Cricket is the second-most popular sport in the world, thanks to the gargantuan population of South Asia. Although around 2.5 billion fans follow the sport fervently, the art of cricket is known only to a few countries in the world, with only 10 of them playing the sport at the highest level.

If cricket is to achieve its ultimate goal of rivaling a sport like football, then it is paramount that the game finds some avenues to capture the imagination of people living outside South Asia. The Asian Games provide cricket with such an opportunity with China, South Korea, Maldives, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Kuwait competing for medals in the men’s game.

An opportunity to win a medal at the Asian Games has forced countries like South Korea and Kuwait to look at cricket seriously. South Korea, being the host and not having played at the last Asian Games, is playing a team with baseball players who have been turned into cricketers. Cricket in Nepal already attracts gigantic crowds, while Afghanistan, silver medalists last time, will look to go one step further.

A new cricket ground has been built in Incheon, South Korea, specifically for the Asian Games. Even the last time, Guangzho in China saw a cricket stadium being built for this specific purpose. These grounds can act as cricketing centers even after the end of the Asian Games, making sure the interest for cricket in those countries is sustained. Cricket’s participation at the Asian Games will force the future hosts to accommodate the facilities that the game requires, thereby spreading the sport across Asia.

An affiliation with the Asian Games, the second largest multi sport event after the Olympics, can make governments support cricket financially in their respective countries. The Rugby 7s, after its inclusion in the Olympics, has picked up in China, with funds freely flowing from the government to enhance the sport in the country. If cricket can manage the same and enchant the Chinese crowd, then the game can further grow with another gigantic country advocating it.

Furthermore, in an event like the Asian Games, where people would want to attend any sport, just because it is a part of the Asian Games, cricket can grow its fan base in the host country. South Korea, being a baseball crazy nation, may have a sizeable number of cricket fans at the end of the Asian Games.

Cricket, the game of glorious uncertainties, had a few upsets in the last Asian Games. Nepal nearly beat Sri Lanka. Bangladesh trounced Sri Lanka, and Pakistan were knocked out by their neighbouring country Afghanistan. If any of the less profile teams can manage to upstage either Bangladesh or Sri Lanka this time, this can incite public interest in their respective countries.

Pakistan’s and India’s withdrawal from cricket at the Asian Games is a major blow. But it will help one of the less fancied teams to win a medal, thereby creating a new hope and support for the sport in the respective nations.

If, in the future, the ICC starts pushing for T20 matches to be a part of the games and if the bigger nations start sending their full squads, the quality of competition will further increase, resulting in drawing the attention of many Asian countries. There is nothing like an India-Pakistan rivalry in a cricket match. If the rivalry can be parlayed in to the Asian Games, then that particular encounter can easily become the biggest hit, making all the Asian countries heed attention to cricket.

The Asian Games can also be a launching pad for cricket to participate in the Olympics. If Olympic medals are up for grabs, countries like China will get onto austere business, as this a href=”http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23546528″ target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>BBC article puts it. The baseball players of South Korea, who have embraced cricket, area href=”http://www.sportskeeda.com/cricket/baseball-cricket-south-korea-t20-team-asian-games-2014″ target=”_blank”> excited by what the gentleman’s game has to offer for them. Kuwait are bound to South Korea after winning several matches in Malaysia. Maldives receive plenty of support from Sri Lanka and have already hosted a SAARC T20 tournament in 2011.

The Asian Games have imbued a fresh interest for the sport of cricket in Asia. If cricket can exploit it completely, it can only benefit.

This Article was also published in Sportskeeda a href=”http://www.sportskeeda.com/cricket/benefits-cricket-gain-asian-games”>here