SA bounces back into world cricket limelight

South Africa will be the centre of the cricketing world once again when the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy comes to Gauteng in a fortnight.

After the onslaught of the mad- dash, slapstick Twenty20 version of the game with the Indian Premier League and T20 World Cup, cricket enthusiasts will be regaled with the more measured cricket action in the 50-over tournament.

Like the Indian Premier League, the Champions Trophy was scheduled to be played on the sub-continent, but after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Pakistan in March, the ICC decided to relocate it.

This will be the second major cricketing event in SA this year. The Indian Premier League injected more than R500m into the economy over a six-week period. The Champions Trophy, a 10-day tournament, will not provide as large an economic boost, but it will enhance SA’s reputation as a premier cricketing destination.

Cricket SA media officer Michael Owen-Smith said yesterday the ICC Champions Trophy would be a great boost for tourism in SA.

“The tournament will fill up hotel rooms, it’s going to support the airline and car rental businesses … restaurants … will all benefit from the event.

“Once again what’s important is that it’s the second time this year that SA is at the centre of the cricket world in a short space of time. It’s another wonderful opportunity to market cricket in this country.”
SA is quickly positioning itself as a premier sporting destination, having hosted the soccer Confederations Cup and with the Fifa World Cup coming up next year.

The tournament involves the best eight teams in the world according to the ICC one-day international rankings, divided into two groups. Each team will face the other teams in their group with the top two in each group advancing to the semifinals.

Australia, India, Pakistan and West Indies are in Group A with SA, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and England in Group B.

SA are ranked No1 in the world, but will want to win this tournament to shed the “choker” tag that has plagued them in previous international tournaments.

Owen-Smith recognises the importance of winning this tournament. “We must continue to establish ourselves as a brand that plays winning cricket and wins major events. We won this tournament back in 1998, and we haven’t won any of the big ICC events since then. So it’s overdue for us to win it again.”ZN

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