The Champions Trophy was only seven editions old. Yet, at the beginning of this year’s event it was made clear that this would be the last Champions Trophy to be held. When a much-hyped tournament like this dies a sudden death, there must be a very strong reason behind it. In this case, the ICC felt that the event which was once dubbed as the mini-World Cup wasn’t getting its due, and hence it was only logical to scrap the same. Ironically, the farewell edition of the tournament has turned out to be a huge success, with reports now even emerging that the event may even be revived.
So, what is it that that has made the recently-concluded Champions Trophy such a big hit? For starters, the crisp format of the tournament has worked to perfection. The event saw only the top eight teams competing and as a result there weren’t too many one-sided clashes, and each match had some significance of sorts. In some of the earlier editions, the minnows also featured, which resulted in a few meaningless matches, just like it often happens in every edition of the 50-over World Cup.
Second and, possibly most important of all, the format adopted for the event made for some compelling competition. When the Champions Trophy began in 1998, it was a knockout tournament. As a result, one loss and the team was out of the mini-World Cup. This did not quite suite the profile of such a big event. Remember, Australia were knocked out of the initial two editions of the tournament in 1998 and 2000, after having lost their opening contest to India in both the editions. Such results also made the Champions Trophy seem more like a tournament of luck than pluck since one defeat was enough to end your chances.
In the succeeding years, the format was changed to incorporate a league phase so that the big teams get a fair chance to stake their claim for what was supposed to be the second most coveted trophy in 50 over cricket, next only to the World Cup. But, till the 2004 edition, the minnows continued to participate, making the tournament a bit of a drag at times. It was only in 2006 that the ICC decided to prune the Champions Trophy down to eight teams. The fortunes of the tournament did not change much, but India’s victory in the recently-concluded event and impressive performances by England and Sri Lanka among others have revived hopes of the tournament getting a second lease of life.
The only blemish, if any, in this year’s Champions Trophy was the constant weather interruption. Of course, that was not in the organisers’ hands. But, the haphazard manner in which the final was concluded was indeed unfair on the fans. There ideally should have been a reserve day. After all, it was such an important final. Another issue that has always come in the way of the event’s success has been its timing. Mostly, it has been held within a couple of years of the World Cup which, according to many, deems the tournament meaningless. It remains to be seen what decision the ICC takes now that the ‘farewell’ edition of the Champions Trophy has ended up being such a mega success.
--By A Cricket Analyst