The first ICC Champions Trophy was a speculative venture by the ICC, and perhaps one of its most successful. It was held in 1998, and the format was a simple, eight-team knockout totalling seven fixtures in Bangladesh. The aim of the tournament was to raise funds for cricket in that country and it was very successful in doing so.
Wisden’s Matthew Engel was told it was the most successful event ever held in Bangladesh since they had become independent, such was the impact.
The ICC, in their wisdom, decided to try again, holding a similar event in Kenya in 2000. This was notable for New Zealand’s first ever success in an event like this, and the general success of the event gave rise to various notions that this could be a useful biennial tournament.
However, since then, the event has been given a formal title – the ICC Champions Trophy – and by being incorporated into the ICC’s huge television deal with Rupert Murdoch’s GCC organisation, the Champions Trophy has lost its way. The early events were quick and easy jaunts to some new places for cricketers, but the last three events have been held in established cricket centres, as part of the regular circuit. However, it has failed to capture the imagination of the world cricket community or the playing fraternity. This year’s event, for example, is widely seen in Anglo-Australian cricketing circles as an unwanted distraction to the build up to the Ashes. For both sides, the Champions Trophy will hamper their proper preparation.
Moreover, since the 2006-07 season is finishing with the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, the rest of the cricket world is likely to view the Champions Trophy as little more then a warm-up to the main event; one where teams can be tweaked and game plans be finalised. It has blown way out of size for a tournament of this nature. The early events were very quick affairs. There are six ‘qualifying matches’ in 2006 – a far cry from the 1998 event, which had seven for the entire event. So all in all, the Champions Trophy has become a real orphan of the international cricket calendar, unloved and unwanted by the people involved in the game, foisted on them by thoughtless administrators.
For those of us that remember the two early success stories, this is a tragic waste.