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Right time to bury the Champions Trophy - Suresh Menon column
by Suresh Menon
Aug 26, 2008
Now is a good time to bury the Champions Trophy tournament. It serves no purpose, and (to quote Wisden four years ago) merely "veers between being the second most important in world cricket and a ludicrous waste of time". To have a World Cup and this so-called 'Mini World Cup' played within five months of each other, as it has happened at least twice, makes no sense. It is difficult not to sympathise with Pakistan for losing a chance to host an international tournament, but perhaps this is an opportunity to end the meaningless exercise.

However you look at the ICC's latest compromise, it is unlikely that the Champions Trophy will be held in Pakistan next October. The calendar is well packed, for one, with the Twenty20 World Cup in England and the Twenty20 Champions League in India to be played. In October, Australia tour India for a seven-match one-day series. And there's no guarantee that South Africa and those unhappy about touring Pakistan will suddenly discover a new love for that country.

A decade ago, when the ICC's first President Jagmohan Dalmiya gave the tournament breath, there was sound economics behind the Champions Trophy. The World Cup, the ICC's flagship tournament was not in the hands of the governing body, but controlled by the host nations. It was not until 1999, that the ICC ran its own World Cup. This was partly because television had not yet begun to play a key role, and neither had the Indian middle class.

When Dalmiya took over, the ICC had around 16,000 pounds in its kitty; the figure rose to 16 million three years later when he quit office. So, much as the publicity machine of the President churned out reams about spreading the game and taking it to remote corners of the world (tournaments were held in Nairobi and Sharjah), the key aim was to make money for the ICC. Thanks to Dalmiya and the new thinking he brought into the ICC, money is no longer an issue. The last two tournaments were played in England and India, so the window dressing that was 'spreading the game' has faded too. In India, such things as Diwali, sponsorship tussles and 'pointless' matches (which, today, to the Indian spectator means any match not involving India) were blamed for the lukewarm response. The obvious lesson wasn't learnt: That if it doesn't work in India, it won't work anywhere else.

The ICC's verbal calisthenics (saying 'postponed' when in effect it is 'cancelled') might defer the day of reckoning. There is too the question of television rights. When the deal with ESPN was struck for upwards of a billion dollars, the contract included two World Cups (in Asia 2011 and in Australia 2015), and three Champions Trophy tournaments. It will be interesting to know what the pound of flesh costs. It would be painful if teams were forced to go through the motions, and play a tournament nobody wants to, just because of a TV deal.

Pakistan, meanwhile, are already planning to fill the gap left by the postponement. They must resist the temptation to invite India since the two countries are scheduled to play a series in January next. Three years from now, they are one of the hosts of the World Cup. Three years may be a long time in politics (and cricket), but Asian countries have shown in recent years that they have long memories. If coming events cast long shadows, past events cast even longer ones.
 
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