Wherever I go these days I look at every nook and cranny to see if I could find and old abandoned lamp. If I do find it, I am going to rub on it till my fingers turn sore or a genie comes fizzing out and grants me three wishes. I have already made up [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Even the genie finds it difficult to grant these wishes


Wherever I go these days I look at every nook and cranny to see if I could find and old abandoned lamp. If I do find it, I am going to rub on it till my fingers turn sore or a genie comes fizzing out and grants me three wishes.

I have already made up my mind. I am not going to ask for fame or fortune, but a chance to put some sense into some cricketing heads.
My first wish would be the continuance of the Champions Trophy series. Maybe it was played at the wrong end of the English summer and some of the results would not have been the same, if the games were conducted on an even keel. Yet, some pundits may say those are the glorious uncertainties of cricket, but, predictable uncertainties do not come into my equation as just. It is like batting second in sub-continental conditions knowing that it would not be the same like the first innings.

Going back to my first wish, I want the Champions Trophy to continue. The ICC Champions Trophy was second in importance only to the Cricket World Cup. It was inaugurated as the ICC knock-out tournament in 1998 and has been played every two years since. Its name changed to Champions Trophy in 2002. The number of teams competing varied over the years. Initially, all the ICCs full members took part, and from 2000 to 2004 associate members were also involved. Yet, since 2009, the tournament has only involved the eight highest-ranked ODI teams as of six months prior to the tournament. Ironically now ICC intends that the 2013 Champions Trophy will be the last. The governing body is hoping to replace it in the cricketing calendar by the new ICC World Test Championship.

The inaugural Test Championship was to be played this year in England. But, financial and logistical constraints saw it being pushed to 2017 and the venue once again will be England.

Good. A fillip to Test cricket is timely and prudent, but the stark reality is that the number of participants will be low. Only the first four in the ICC ratings at a given cut-off date will take part in this tournament — and in reality it may not have a global appeal.
My argument here is the Champions Trophy which will come to a conclusion today had all the ingredients of being the toughest tournament at the highest professional level in cricket history.

Maybe, India were a cut above the rest and they have so far won all their matches. Yet, besides the first match played against South Africa at Cardiff which India put into bat won by a mere 26 runs, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had the luck of winning the rest of the tosses and batting second.

Anyone who followed the series closely would know that the side batting second always had a distinct advantage in this particular series. Having said that, the eight teams that were on show at this Champions Trophy tournament were on an even keel. At this show no team was there to gain experience. All were equally good and they were there on a purpose — they were there to take a trophy home and hypothetically the chances were even.

This is the type of tournament that is needed for people to believe in cricket. It is only the best proven lot of cricketers who are in action. They are the main actors on the stage.

Maybe, the Cricket World Cup and the World T-20 Championships are more accommodating and they include some of the “we were also there” teams. But, in reality the chances still flow with the best.

So they say that the ICC calendar is full with the three formats in place. The world Test Championship with four teams every four years. The fifty overs championship comes in with the best and the also-rans every four years — with the T-20 championships also coming on with the minions every two years.

Yet, the best format where the best in the world are on show in the closest thing to being realistic has been sent to the altar of sacrifice by the ICC pundits
My argument is why have the T-20 championship every other year? Why open another (open secret) unofficial window for the Indian Premier League arguably where once again the best talent in the world converges. Besides, now every country has its own T-20 tournament and all of them try to woo the available international stars into their bowl. As far as I am concerned there is an overdose of T-20 cricket right now. That is on the surface. Even behind the curtain T-20 cricket is becoming the oldest profession in sport.
The intensity and assurance about the game that this champion’s trophy brought to the world should be taken into consideration and the ICC must think deep before it drowns this tournament forever.

Then I come to the second wish. This is much closer home. After the semi-final loss I heard a team member had stated that they originally had plans to go up to the semi-finals and they were happy with it. What an understatement about Sri Lankan cricket that is! That was the Champions Trophy and not the semi-finalists trophy. It was not a place for the under achievers nor the place for the complacent bunch of losers.

Losing the semi-final was not a shame. They lost to the team that is in form. On that fatal day, India also happened to win the vital toss. If they lost the toss and batted they still may have won, but not in the same convincing manner, I am sure.

At the same time they say when the teacher stands the students run. Knowing that the wicket was not going to be the same in the Indian innings, the captain misses regulation slip catch – that also off the batsman who is in the best nick in the current tournament. So, what can you say about the rest of the missed opportunities? If they could be satisfied with that performance and be satisfied of stopping at the semi-final stage, they should not have been there at all

Then come the third and the last wish. Whilst the match was on, suddenly one of the commentators shouted “I see an idiot running across the field” to see I really saw an uneducated idiot with a flag running across the field yet the poor old Bobbies were slower than my father’s good old Morris 8. In the next inning they did the same and the Bobbies once again were as slow as my grandfather’s Austin 8.
The Bobbie’s inaction cascaded into a brawl outside the ground. Some Lankan lads who could not stomach the idiotic action thought at least they should put some sense into those idiotic minds

I much appreciate the resolve of our cricketers who went through the grind with all these distractions. Mind you it happened in another form on our own soil — people who are doused in extremism parading on cricket with flimsy excuses. Ironically nobody took time to show where they went wrong.

My fervent wish is even this genie would take politics out of sport.

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