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Champions Trophy: A Cup Half Full?


By Gaurang
September 9 2004

The ICC Champions Trophy, also known as the Mini World Cup, starts on Sep 10 in England. Who are the favorites in this "knock-out" format tournament? Here is Gaurang's preview. An optimist would believe that the ICC knockout mini world cup is a case of the cup half full. At least no team is threatening a boycott for reasons of safety, politics, or “either of the above” depending on which day of the week it is. There is no dispute over players’ contracts, the tournament rules now allow for an extra day with interrupted matches to be continued where they left off, the bonus point has been banned, and even the weather seems to be obliging.

Yet the pessimist would counter that this Cup is again suffering some of the same problems as the last version in Sri Lanka. In that version, the attendance at non-Indian and non-Sri Lankan games, even such excellent match ups such as Pakistan against Australia, was poor. Here again India seem to be able to guarantee a full-house every time, but even the hosts can’t seem to muster one. Then the issue of the ICC’s heavy handedness in policing for “ambush marketing” is still alive. Fans have been strongly warned not to drink the wrong drink or eat the wrong snack at the ground under threat of confiscation of their food or drink and even expulsion from the ground. This attitude of the ICC, given the weakness of ticket sales for the games is doubly baffling. The ICC's decision not to have a single official from India officiating in this tournament, may also be a sign of a coming rift between the ICC and what is now just as rich a body, the BCCI, who clearly will not be amenable to the ICC's hegemonic ways in matters related to the running of the game.

But regardless of the administrative storm clouds in the distance and the immediate restrictions on what a fan can eat and drink at the games, at least the cricket itself appears to be quite appetizing, despite the absence of two of the greatest exponents of the game, Sachin Tendulkar and Mutthaiah Muralitharn.

A key match up between traditional rivals India and Pakistan is only one of the delicious offerings, providing the Kenyans don’t upset the dinner tray in store. Australia versus New Zealand stirs antipodean rivalry and as the two teams with the best records in One Dayers this year, it may be a closer matchup than many would imagine. South Africa v West Indies may seem a mismatch, but West Indies are quite decent in the shorter version of the game and South Africa have been playing dismally, so it may be a case of teams meeting in the middle: one on a fast elevator going down and the other on an elevator stuck somewhere in between floors. The hosts England play Sri Lanka in another match up that would also seem a mismatch based on the past record of these two teams in England. However Sri Lanka are the hottest team in cricket right now, and England are not too far behind. This may indeed prove to be a race to the top, as either team that emerges from this encounter should be well placed to reach the finals.

South Africa won the first version of the mini world cup in 1998 and New Zealand won in 2000 while defending co-champions India and Sri Lanka shared the cup in 2002 following two back to back rain ruined attempts at a decider. This time the clear favorites are Australia, but if New Zealand can pull the proverbial “Koala out of a Black Cap” and stun the favorites early, who knows, any one of the teams barring Bangladesh, Kenya (who can cause an upset or two no doubt), the United States, and Zimbabwe have a legitimate shot at winning it all.

I will not make a prediction, but express instead my hope that England win the cup. This will be good for English cricket and ultimately for world cricket, because England, the inventors of the One Day game, have been very slow in fully embracing it. This could be their version of India’s World Cup win in 1983, or Sri Lanka’s in 1996. It could make them a force in a version of the game, that except for the early years, they have been painfully inadequate in.

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