ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 19


It so happens that a cherished dream of a person with genuine love for a particular object/event could be seen by others as an opportunity to vulgarize and cash in on it, with the ideal behind it being completely shattered.

A glaring example is the ICC’s Champions Trophy which has now become the second big show piece in cricket to the ICC World Cup which is scheduled to take place in the West Indies early next year.

When the World’s cricket hierarchy launched this programme as the Wills International Cup in Bangladesh in 1998 it came up with a very human face which carried the tag “to give the backdrop nations a little glamour in cricket”. This meant that all the ‘big boys’ in World Cricket would gather in one of these ‘pit stops’ where cricket is still to be recognized by its populace and have a bit of a carnival so that the game would be then be endorsed as an accepted one.

In the Bangladesh version South Africa got the chance of laying their hands on a major tournament for the first time with the West Indies finishing up as runners-up. Like the first gospel that was spread its next stop was in Kenya and by this time the ICC champions trophy had gathered a little momentum and this time it was the turn of New Zealand to ‘clutch’ the trophy beating India in the final.Now…now…now… The ICC learned that they had a good thing going. So in their next outing they meant to put it in cricket’s gravy train – India. By now the ‘carnival’ tag had left this phase of world cricket and it had become something important or the ICC had seen to it that it grew into one of them. However by a twist of fate – which only meant a taxing problem which cropped up in India, saw the machine moving to their more conducive neighbours Sri Lanka. Here Sri Lanka took the chance with both hands and shot themselves into the final, but another twist of fate saw them sharing the trophy with their ‘big brothers’ next door after rain finally gave the verdict of the final.

Then two years ago it was moved to England and some saw it as ill-timed and a blatant move to give the hosts a chance to win their first major trophy, which thus has eluded them in any major World tournament. With fickle weather buckling the chances of some of the teams, England came up to the finals but the grit of the West Indian batsmen Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw was to deny the hosts of a trophy once again.

The above is a short history of the ICC champion’s trophy, but, does anyone know the real purpose of ICC conducting this tournament? Do they conduct it to pay the salaries of people like Malcolm Speed, Darrell Hair and Ranjan Madugalle or they use the revenue off it to spread the gospel of cricket far and wide so that it becomes a game as rich as Football which also took wings from the same backyard that cricket did.

Now coming into the real thing that got off the ground yesterday, I feel that especially the West Indians and the Sri Lankans are in a very enviable position. Once the competition starts the top six in the tournament go into that nightmarish sudden death draw. One batting of your eye-lid at the wrong moment would be sufficient for your team to pack their bags and go home prematurely. There is no time for preparations and so on. However the bottom four teams – Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will first go through a round robin series of qualifying matches and I suppose that Sri Lanka and the West Indies play good enough cricket to sail into the main section. But just imagine getting the chance of playing a series of matches under real competitive conditions in which heart of hearts you know that you can get through (irrespective of what happened yesterday). What about acclimatization to the conditions? What about just playing around with some experiments under the given conditions that you want to get through before the real thing gets off the ground? I feel this is a huge advantage given to two traditional cricket playing nations over the rest of the flock. I feel if this same system still remains two years hence, all the top countries would clamour to be at the bottom of the table rather than being at the top.

For instance take India who saw Sri Lanka dropping from the second spot in the ICC ODI table to seventh are now striving hard to regain that ‘soap bubble’ hype they had when they thrashed them hollow at 6-1. Since then Sri Lanka has somewhat come into their own beating England 5-0 while playing in England and then going on to beat the South Africans 2-0 in a test series before they ran back home giving some flimsy excuses. As for India since their hype they have lost an ODI series to the West Indies and then they have also failed to qualify for the final of an ODI series which was played in Malaysia, which also featured Australia and the West Indies.

As for the West Indies who are the defending champions, the qualifiers will be a tremendous boon while Australia will be vying for the one crown that has eluded them so far.

With England’s present problems and their pre occupation of defending the ashes no one can expect them to take this ‘plum’ away while for the rest of the others it is “Good luck, it’s yours! Take it with both hands …..You deserved it”

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.