Not long ago, the concept of One Day Internationals itself was under threat. The advent of Twenty20 cricket, its marketability and salability, gravitated administrators towards the shortest format like bees are attracted to honey.
Soon, following India's unexpected win in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup, it dawned upon them that making room for ODIs in a packed calendar would require more than a mere rearrangement of fixtures.
Test cricket had its fair share of saviors among the high and mighty – stiff purists who swore by the most hallowed principles of the game – but the 50-over format, until India’s fabled 2011 World Cup win at home somewhat restored it to primacy, had few takers during a disturbing phase that saw repeated questions raised on its relevance.
It can also be held that the heavy revenue of myriad Twenty20 leagues, in a way, liberated administrators. They could now focus on, aside from obligatory bilateral fixtures, a viable plan to have one premier tournament for each format, i.e. the ODI and Twenty20 World Cups and the conceptualized ICC Test Championships.
Rise of T20
Twenty20 was by far a more succinct and user-friendly introduction to cricket for the uninitiated. In a restructured calendar, the Champions Trophy, once ICC’s vehicle to take the game to emerging markets and milk downtime between World Cups, had only one way to go – out.
And having endured progressive tweaks of format and identity - the ‘ICC Knock Out’ and ‘Mini World Cup’ come first to mind - the latest tournament in England and Wales will be the last.
It could have been worse and the plug could have been pulled even earlier. The ICC had offered the official broadcaster to replace this year’s edition with qualifiers for the Test Championship, but the TV rights holder wasn’t too keen on a reworked offer.
As a result of which, we now have the final installment of a tournament nobody wants, that was a moderate success the first two times it was conducted but then devolved into a diluted, unwatchable, badly scheduled and commercialized farce, a scenario that plumbed to its nadir in England 2004 – generally agreed upon by journalists as the most repulsive, slagged-off sports event in recorded history.
All of which could have been mended. For, in its latest avatar, the Champions Trophy remains uncluttered by the riff-raff of international cricket. The field comprises the top eight nations, making each match almost a must-win encounter and reducing drastically the duration of the event.
In contrast, these are the very issues that plague the 50-over World Cup, which is often criticized for being too long and bloated by an endless number of one-sided games.
Even 2011’s watershed bonanza, regarded by all an unequivocal success, had an entirely useless first month (enlivened solely by England’s rather entertaining league phase) that led to the identification of the eight obvious quarterfinalists.
But the logistical monstrosities of a World Cup have to be indulged in, which is not the case for a tournament that the ICC themselves have often been loathe to promote.
In an increasingly mercantile universe, thus, sounding the dirge on the Champions Trophy was a long time coming. This is also the ICC’s way of saying that they cannot henceforth accommodate a 17-day tournament every two years – even when the calendar is apparently capacious enough to hold a seven-match ODI series between India and Australia and several space-consuming engagements between India and their always-ready-to-play neighbours, Sri Lanka.
It is doubtful if the decision will cause any heartburn. Players are only as keen on living out of suitcases and aircraft as fans are on watching them in action with nary a break in between. Expect sighs of mild lamentation only from the South African camp, for whom it remains their only ICC silverware. [CYCSPL]
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