ICC's scheduling woes. And its foes.

2006 Apr 29 by DreamCricket

Coming on the eve of the Ashes series in Australia and less than six months before the World Cup in the West Indies, this could well be the last Champions Trophy to be staged.

Judging by the cover-up job clumsily attempted at the formal launch in New Delhi on Thursday, the ICC has a white elephant on its hands. In two words, Champions Trophy.

The tournament was launched in Dhaka in 1998 under the name of the ICC Knock-out. From the very beginning, there have been rumblings in the world cricket fraternity that the whole exercise ostensibly staged to collect funds “for developing cricket among the ICC’s Associate and Affiliate Members” was essentially a waste of time.

It has since failed to catch the fancy of cricket lovers and reached a nadir in England the last time it was staged in 2004. Bad scheduling, poorly contested games -- —Australia v. the United States was the biggest farce-- miserable weather and a lukewarm response from the fans doomed it to failure.

It was only the West Indies’ remarkable last-gasp win in the final against England that saved it from total obscurity.

Now the format has been altered to avoid lop-sided games but the event still drags on for far too long. A total of 21 matches will be staged at four venues in 29 days, but surprise, surprise, there is no automatic entry for the title holders!

The once-mighty West Indians will have to fight it out in a preliminary contest with Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh with the top two joining the other six in the tournament proper. There is thus no guarantee that the twice-World Cup winners will make the grade.

The other big shock is the total absence of Kenya from these 10 nations. Remember, they had made it to the semifinals of the last World Cup in South Africa. Now it is as if they have disappeared off the face of the world cricket map.

There has been plenty of friction between the current set of office-bearers who took charge of the BCCI late last year and the ICC’s top brass.

One would have hardly have guessed that at the launch however as both ICC president Ehsan Mani and BCCI president Sharad Pawar put up a untied front, sweeping all differences neatly under the carpet.

It was perhaps just as well that dirty linen was not being washed in public. Then again, the spin that was being put on these contentious issues was clearly an attempt to just paper over the cracks. They will no doubt re-surface sooner or later.

In fact just when the questions from the media began to become uncomfortable for the two head-honchos on stage, Pawar saw to it that the interaction was brought to an abrupt halt.

Most of the misgivings against the Champions Trophy had emanated from Lalit Modi, the BCCI vice-president. Modi felt the tournament was a disruption to the Indian team’'s international scheduling and would also result in a financial loss. Perhaps that is why Jaipur—, Modi'’s personal fiefdom —has been granted the maximum of six matches!

Some of these misgivings no doubt stems from the fact that the original concept was that of Jagmohan Dalmiya when he was heading the ICC. Anything associated with Dalmiya is anathema to the current BCCI regime.

Still, the litany of complaints from players around the world attacking the timing of the contest means it has run into road-bumps six months before the start.

Coming on the eve of the Ashes series in Australia and less than six months before the World Cup in the West Indies, this could well be the last Champions Trophy to be staged, the protestations of Mr. Mani notwithstanding.