Duncan Mackay
Philip BarkerCricket was played at London 2012 but only as part of Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony. The re-creation of a match on the village green was so accurate, it even included a shower of rain.

Not since 1900 has it been played in earnest at an Olympic Games and even then, most of the participants remained blissfully unaware they had become Olympians.

In 2012 test cricketers Marcus Trescothick and Paul Collingwood were both chosen as Torch bearers and two days before the Opening Ceremony, the flame was taken onto the wicket at a local cricket club in West London by charity volunteer Jo Hyams.

The earliest possible Olympic return for the sport would be in 2024. For that to happen, the International Cricket Council (ICC) would have to table a bid. Then they have to reply to a wide ranging International Olympic Committee (IOC) questionnaire. The host city and programme is due to both be decided at the IOC Session in 2017.

The longest serving England captain, Michael Atherton, who is now a highly-respected journalist, has told his readers in The Times that "the potential benefits are obvious" and that cricket "should not miss the opportunity".

The first steps on the road have been taken. The ICC already has Olympic recognition as an International Federation.

IOC President Jacques Rogge is a confirmed fan. His longest serving predecessor, also admired cricket's sense of fair play. In the early plans for the 1896 Games in Athens, cricket is listed "according to the laws of the Marylebone Cricket Club" (MCC).

There proved to be insufficient entries for a competition, but in for the 1900 Games in Paris, an ambitious four team tournament was on the cards. The Dutch had already played at Lord's - in 1894 - so they were invited with Belgium but neither team turned up. Nor did the most famous and successful sportsman of his day, the great cricketer WG Grace.

The French did raise a team. When the Eiffel Tower was built, a large community of expatriate Englishmen remained and so did cricket. The Standard Athletic Club and Albion CC combined to represent "All Paris".

Cricket at 1900 Olympics in ParisCricket at the 1900 Olympics in Paris was played at the Vélodrome de Vincennes.

In England, Castle Cary Cricket Club in Somerset and Blundell's School from Devon took up the challenge as the Devon and Somerset County Wanderers and beat their "French" counterparts by 158 runs in a 12 aside match played over two days.

Coubertin kept the MCC informed about his future plans and in 1904, an IOC party even visited Lord's to watch part of the Middlesex v South Africans match. They were welcomed by Grace, CB Fry and Lord Darnley, all test match cricketers in their day.

Later that week,the IOC selected Rome as host city for 1908. Coubertin set aside 2,000 francs for a cricket competition at the Villa Borghese.

Two years later, Vesuvius erupted. Rome withdrew as hosts. London took over. Chaired by Lord Desborough, who had once played for Harrow against Eton, the Organising Committee also included Andrew Stoddart, a former England captain. Yet, although the 1908 Games ran throughout the summer and included such curiosities as motor-boating, jeu de paume and polo, there was no place for cricket.

Even so, MCC themselves sent regular donations to help the Olympic appeal and their secretary Francis Lacey sat on the British Olympic Council. Bernard Bosanquet, inventor of the googly, later became a fund raiser for the British Olympic Association. IOC member Lord Rochdale had played first-class cricket for Lancashire and Clarence Bruce won the 1920 County Cricket Championship with Middlesex. A decade later,he dominated the MCC Racquets competitions on the indoor courts behind the pavilion at Lord's. In 1929, and by now known as Lord Aberdare, he joined the IOC and served the Olympic Movement until his death in 1957.

Yet even with these insiders, cricket remained outside, although Melbourne Cricket Ground did see Olympic action in 1956. Brisbane's "Gabba" was used for football in 2000 and Lord's itself was the setting for archery in 2012. The BBC went so far as to despatch cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew to cover the event. "It is Lord's, but not as we know it," he said.

Where cricket was once dominated by the old British Empire, and the ICC stood for "Imperial Cricket Conference", now it claims to be truly global. The International Cricket Council headquarters are no longer at Lord's, but in Dubai.

Cricket Opening Ceremony London 2012Cricket featured in the Opening Ceremony at London 2012 - complete with its own rain cloud

Amongst the current IOC membership, Prince Tunku Imran of Malaysia has called for cricket's return to the Commonwealth Games, an organisation of which he is President.

The IOC questionnaire covers 74 key points and cricket can tick most of the boxes including the section on "rules and procedures to fight against competition fixing". That response is forged from bitter experience.

The short Twenty20 format means no match need last much more than 90 minutes. This would enable a meaningful tournament to be completed in the Olympic time span.

India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies are giants in cricket, but none are considered superpowers in other Olympic sports. Their presence on the podium would therefore be welcomed by the IOC, although India are thought to be concerned that an Olympic tournament could threaten the existence of the highly lucrative Indian Premier League.

Bangladesh are one of the newer test playing nations but their men beat Afghanistan to win gold at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou. Such diversity of medallists would appeal. The IOC are keen on what they call " global spread of excellence".

Other nations are also developing. Japan is better known for baseball, but their men and women played MCC at Lord's for the first time in 2013. "Becoming an Olympic sport would make a huge difference, it is the biggest thing that could happen in terms of publicising it in our country," said Japan Cricket Association chief executive Naoki Alex Miyaji .

Pakistan women celebrate Asian Games victory 2010Pakistan's women celebrate their victory at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou

The IOC also looks for "Specific women in sport initiatives". Cricket's landscape has changed dramatically in the last 40 years. Hard to believe that the first Women's World Cup final in 1973 was at Edgbaston in Birmingham because they were not then allowed to play at Lord's.

The victory of the Pakistani women in the 2010 Asian Games was significant. No woman from that country has yet won an Olympic medal.

The decision on sports for 2020 could yet have an impact on any future inclusion of cricket. If the baseball/softball combo was re-admitted, the IOC might not look too kindly on having two bat and ball sports with relatively large squads at the same Games.

Born in Hackney, a stone's throw from the 2012 Olympic Stadium, Philip Barker has worked as a television journalist for 25 years. He began his career with Trans World Sport, then as a reporter for Skysports News and the ITV breakfast programme. A regular Olympic pundit on BBC Radio, Sky News and Talksport, he is associate editor of the Journal of Olympic History, has lectured at the National Olympic Academy and contributed extensively to Team GB publications.