Cricket has been dropped from the schedule of next year’s Asian Games in Qatar because none of the region’s leading players would be available.

India and Bangladesh will be on tour in December 2006 and Pakistan will be playing West Indies at home. But the Olympic Council of Asia deemed proposals to field junior sides in the cricket tournament as unacceptable.

“We are firmly of the view that only top teams should take part in the Asian Games,” said the OCA’s Randhir Singh. “We have decided to drop the sport altogether.”

Cricket has rarely been part of international multi-sport competitions. South Africa beat Australia to win the final of the 1998 Commonwealth Games cricket competition at Kuala Lumpur in 1998, but the sport was not part of the 2002 event in Manchester.

And cricket has not been played at the Olympics since the 1900 Games in Paris when Great Britain beat France to win the gold medal.

The England and Wales Cricket Board, however, has begun lobbying for Twenty20 cricket to be part of the 2012 Olympics should London’s bid to be the host city be successful.

The Asian Games, meanwhile, will take place in Doha from 1-15 December 2006.