The timing of the Champions Trophy-one month before
the Ashes and six months before the World Cup-can
certainly be faulted. But there is no doubt that it
has created a buzz in India since this is the first
major tournament the country is hosting since the 1996
Wills World Cup.
The duration is also jarring-21 matches in 30 days
when it could have all been wrapped up in 15. But
these minor quibbles apart, it is definitely an
exciting prospect that all the top teams in the world
will take part in one tournament instead of yet
another meaningless tri-series in some backwaters of
Since it was launched in Bangladesh in 1998, the
tournament, initially known as the ICC Knock-out Cup
has changed its format constantly.
The inaugural edition was faulty in that a team would
have to travel thousands of miles, lose one match and
head straight back home.
Then in 2004 in England we had the sorry spectacle of
the United States of America and the Netherlands
competing with the big boys when they were completely
out of their depth.
In 2002 there another sorry spectacle--the final being
washed out after one completed innings and then being
replayed the very next day from the start-also washed
out. Two teams sharing the title was farcical.
The ICC is the cricket world's punching bag and often
deserves the barbs. But it has finally got the format
right this time around.
There has been some criticism that West Indies, the
defending champions have to go through the qualifying
round this time around.
Then again, this is the same method employed by Fifa
for the first time in the 2006 World Cup football
where Brazil were forced to qualify despite winning
the title in 2002. In both the Champions Trophy and
the football World Cup therefore now it is only the
hosts who automatically make it to the main draw and
that is how it should be.
Yes, it is ironical that two of the three form teams
(Australia seem to be perpetually in form), namely the
holders and Sri Lanka are competing with Bangladesh
and Zimbabwe for two places in the main event.
But both these sides struck form just in the last 3-4
months whereas the cut-off point for the top five
(plus hosts India) set by the ICC was April 2006.
Yes, it is feasible that either the Windies or the
Lankans could conceivably take the title this time
around. After all, they get the chance to play three
matches before they will almost certainly qualify and
this can only do they some good. The other sides will
come in to the tournament cold.
India are certainly in the tougher of the two groups
with England, Australia and one of the two qualifiers.
England though have their sights firmly set on the
Ashes and don't appear particularly keen to be part of
this tournament at all.
The best games should be Pakistan v South Africa on
October 27 and India v. Australia two days later, both
The staging association, the Punjab Cricket
Association may have a litany of complaints against
the ICC. But the spectators are surely going to come
in droves to support these games.
My prediction is that India will go all the way.