Malaysian Cricket Association confident of qualifying for 2028 Olympics

Malaysian Cricket Association confident of qualifying for 2028 Olympics

Malaysian Cricket Association (MCA) president, Mohammed Iqbal Ali Kassim Ali is confident Malaysia can qualify for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics (LA28 Olympic Games).

If it happens, cricket will be the third team sport from Malaysia to debut at the Olympics, following hockey and football.

“Many people do not realise it, but our cricket team is quite good. We are ranked No. 25 (men) and 26 (women), without having naturalised players,” said Iqbal.

“Many teams have naturalised players – we saw what happened at the Cambodian SEA Games early this year.

“The good news is, for the Olympics, only passport holders can represent a country. So, I expect us to climb the rankings,” he said.

Cricket, squash, flag football, lacrosse, baseball, and softball are the new sports in LA28. The announcement was made earlier this week.

For the Los Angeles Games, the International Olympic Committee approved a shortened version of cricket, with 20 overs per side (T20) – a format that Malaysia excels in, with Syazrul Ezat Idrus, a world record holder.

Syazrul, 32, became the first player to take seven wickets – including five ducks – in a T20 international last July when Malaysia defeated China in the T20 World Cup Asia B Qualifier in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia won all its matches to advance to the regional final in Nepal from Oct 30-Nov 5, where it will play Oman, Nepal, and Singapore in Group A. Bahrain, Hong Kong, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates are in Group B.

The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals, with the two finalists earning a place in next year’s T20 World Cup.

Iqbal said MCA has worked hard in the past decade to develop cricket, and now has 10 centres of excellence and more than 1,200 players playing the game around the country.

“It has not been easy finding the money, as many companies don’t see the value in cricket.

“They do not realise that cricket has a global audience of over two billion people,” he said.

“With cricket now an Olympic sport, we hope more local sponsors will see the potential return on investment, should they sponsor us.

“I also hope that the Youth and Sports Ministry, National Sports Council, and National Sports Institute will provide us with greater assistance.”

Iqbal, however, acknowledged that Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh has been a big supporter of cricket, and helped convince Sarawak to include the sport in next year’s Malaysia Games (Sukma).

“With cricket in Sukma, SEA Games, Asian Games, and the Olympics, parents and schools will appreciate that their children have an opportunity to shine in cricket.

“We have a core group of players who will still be around in 2028, but we need a proper system to ensure we have good replacements, should the need arise.”

He added that the film ‘Gemencheh Boys’ – which opened recently, had also brought attention to cricket.

The film details the exploits of six Felda boys who helped Malaysia win a gold medal at the 2017 SEA Games.

“When I was growing up, the national newspapers used to carry stories about the sport,” said Iqbal.

“Sadly, that is hardly the case now. Cricket needs more feel-good stories, and I am confident the film will be an eye-opener for many people.”