Manikata (Malta) (AFP) - The Commonwealth Games is in talks with the International Cricket Council about bringing the sport back into the four-yearly event, organisers told AFP.
The Commonwealth Games Federation, which controls the second-biggest multi-sport event after the Olympics, said it was keen to get cricket back on the bill, with the Twenty20 shortest format of the game a particularly "exciting" prospect.
Cricket has only featured once at the Commonwealth Games, at the 1998 event in Kuala Lumpur, but CGF chiefs said their 71 national and territorial associations wanted it back in, provided a viable format could be produced.
"We've had some fantastic conversations with the ICC. It's very much exploratory," CGF chief executive David Grevemberg told AFP at the Commonwealth summit in Malta.
"(It's) one of the priorities of the movement: all 71 nations and territories unanimously agreed that it would be great to have cricket as part of the sports programme.
"It's not out of the question and, working with the ICC, we could come up with a really relevant and exciting format."
At the 1998 Games, 16 teams competed in 50-over matches.
Caribbean countries competed separately rather than as West Indies, while a Northern Ireland team also took part. England refused to send a squad as it clashed with the end of the domestic championship season.
South Africa beat Australia in the gold medal match.
Cricket is not on the agenda for the 2018 Games in the Gold Coast, Australia, but could potentially feature at the 2022 Games in Durban, South Africa.
- Structure must prevent whitewashes -
CGF president Louise Martin said West Indies countries such as Jamaica and Barbados would "love" the chance to compete in a global tournament in their own right.
Therefore, "it would be completely different" to existing international cricket tournaments, she told AFP.
"Let's think outside the box and open it up."
She said any Commonwealth Games cricket competition would have to involve countries from each region, and give minor nations worthwhile matches and something to play for.
The format must also be carefully structured also to avoid major teams playing pointless one-sided matches against weaker opposition, the former Scotland swimmer said.
"We need to encourage smaller countries to be able to compete at major Games," she said.
However, "you have to look at the whole structure and what the strength in depth is. We don't want whitewashes. I would hate to think that anyone going in against Australia or India are thinking they're going to get nought. That's not what this is about".
She stressed discussions with the ICC were still in the initial phases.
"We'd like to have it back in again. The Twenty20 format makes its so much more exciting and you can do it in a shorter period of time, but at this moment it's still in discussion stage."