On the Front Foot: Why the ICC should keep the Champions Trophy

 

By common consent the cricket tournament now being played in England (and Wales) is small but perfectly formed. It follows therefore that this, the seventh Champions Trophy, is intended to be the last.

In their infinite wisdom, which admittedly they manage occasionally to keep brilliantly concealed about a thousand miles under the Dubai desert where they have their headquarters, the International Cricket Council have decided it has to go. Before, when the competition had no friends and was considered superfluous, it had to stay.

The good old CT, as it has become, is being sacrificed on the altar of the World Test Championship. In theory, this is an admirable exchange – another limited-overs tourney for a spectacle in which the greatest form of the game can be seen in all its glory.

The inaugural WTC is scheduled for 2107 and will be played in England, the only place where Test cricket is still properly deified. Dave Richardson, the chief executive of the ICC, said last week that it was the ideal place. But as yet this has not been thought through.

The plan to have the top four teams in the rankings qualifying is clearly unworkable. There would be no room for the honourable draw, yet a timeless match to yield a result would be against the very tenets of the game (despite some mucking about on this score in the 1920s). The benefit of the WTC would be to give Test cricket some razzmatazz every four years, to offer the world a champion. But the ICC know that the rankings already do that.

There may be a way round it: to have the top two in the rankings at a certain point qualifying for a three-match final, of which the final match would be timeless in the event of two draws. But if the weather intervened it would be a championship without a champion.

The ICC meet later this month to decide, or at least to put an item on the agenda for further discussion. It is not too late to save the delightful Champions Trophy.

Start of a marathon

England played Australia yesterday in the first of 26 international matches between the countries in the next nine months. There are a scheduled 66 playing days and about as many hotel rooms. The total number of miles that the teams will have to travel, discounting brief forays home, is more than 40,000.

Most of those will be in Australia, and England can expect to travel 35,000 miles after leaving Heathrow in October. A minority of players will be there every step of the way, wrecking their carbon footprint.

Subcontinent sell-out

Make no mistake that the big match of the Champions Trophy takes place next Saturday, a week before the final. The pool B encounter between India and Pakistan at Edgbaston sold out within two hours. It could have sold out at least 10 times over.

The five Trophy matches staged at the venue will be worth £15.5m to the city, £3m more than originally budgeted, because of the clash. Birmingham has taken the event to its heart and the city council are using the event to persuade overseas business to invest. Cricket is more than a game.

Brum bangs own drum

Visit Birmingham have been extremely active in promoting the delights of the city. Doubtless to the consternation of Edgbaston, their pamphlet trumpets ideas of what to do on a rainy day. See a film in a 1920s cinema, anyone? Check out Pre-Raphaelite art?

They know whereof they speak: Edgbaston lost to rain three days of its Test match last year, an entire ODI, and much of the Twenty20 international. When Warwickshire launched their County Championship title defence with a weather-ruined match against Derbyshire this season it put the tin lid on it. The forecast for this week with three matches due is distinctly unpromising. Visit Birmingham were only doing their duty.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stephenbrenkley

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