Test Match Sofa
Cricket Diary: Farewell, Champions Trophy
By Richard Gibson
So it’s farewell Champions Trophy, ill-loved tournament of world cricket. Next year’s event in England will be the last. It would have waved goodbye even sooner but for the power of television, and therein lies one of the sport’s great ironies.
For, although it is universally accepted that television, as major bill payer, dictates global schedules these days - and that 50-over matches with their 49 ad break opportunities per innings are the favourite animal of TV executives - this was a tournament which, upon its conception in 1998, was flagged up as a fund-raiser for the development of the game in non-Test playing nations rather than one to placate corporation fat cats.
How much it has actually contributed to emerging nations is debatable but in its 14 years existence, Bangladesh, the inaugural hosts, have been welcomed into Test cricket while countries like Kenya, the Netherlands and Ireland have proved competitive on the biggest stage.
In fact, they produced some of the most memorable moments in 2003, 2007 and 2011. Their reward? To be cut from future World Cups. Although they gained a late reprieve for the next one in Australia, the ICC’s recent executive board meeting in Dubai highlighted its temporary nature: the 2019 and 2023 events will both comprise only the game’s major nations.
This only served to reiterate the point made by Wisden’s Lawrence Booth in his first set of editor’s notes that this decision was one forced upon them by an uninspiring 2011 World Cup when ‘the winning punch was landed too early’.
And as I cannot put forward a better mediatory case for the shape of future tournaments, I will allow Booth to: “The ICC then got themselves into a mess, reverting from their new plan (only the ten Test teams to contest the 2015 World Cup) to their old one (14 teams). Both were flawed and ignored the obvious answer: 12 sides, divided into groups of six, each playing the others in their group once, with the top two progressing to the semi-finals.
“This would produce a relatively slimline tournament of 33 games. (There were 51 in 2007, after which we were promised fewer: in 2009, there were 49.) Virtually every match would count, thus making up for the absence of quarter-finals; fewer would be pushovers, but the so-called minnows would still get the chance to prove themselves; the whole thing wouldn’t drag on; and India – whose swift elimination in 2007 was the cricket economy’s very own Black Friday – would be guaranteed at least five games. But it would mean less TV money. So forget it.”
I fear he is right. But for once, wouldn’t it be nice if the powers that be proved us all wrong, and we got a World Cup worthy of its name?
England cricket coach Andy Flower is a serious man – one who likes to set targets, one not known for giving up easily, and one who, when with three charities counting on him, was a sure-fire bet to complete the London Marathon despite niggling Achilles and hip injuries.
Flower, whose training was done in the humidity of Sri Lanka over the winter, duly finished in four-and-three-quarter hours.
He also gave a rare glimpse of his lighter side on the eve of the event, when he revealed: “Earlier this week I popped down to Worcestershire to see the England physio Ben Langley. He gave me a final MOT which I definitely needed. I'm not sure I would have passed but he did loosen me up a little. People have been telling me to do that all my life!"
New Yorkshire signing Phil Jaques experienced heavier April showers than most as he prepared for his return to the club.
The first day of his second ‘debut’ – this one as a local player after having his British passport recognised – against Essex was a total wash-out.
But it was nothing compared to the deluge that almost wrecked another big occasion on April 5. "We got flooded out in Fiji, and had to organise our wedding in three days, which was interesting to say the least!" he explained.
So it wasn’t the fault of the Tiflex ball after all, then? Second division batsmen barely had a good word to say about it in recent years, yet a glance at the statistics suggests their productivity has dropped since its banishment.
After the first three rounds of County Championship fixtures, only one batsman outside the top-flight, Derbyshire’s Kiwi import Martin Guptill, had managed a cumulative total in excess of 200 runs.
*Follow me on Twitter @richardgibson74
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