One-Day Mataram

Deconstructing the gentleman's game

Whither Champions Trophy?!

Two matches into the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy tournament, a couple of things are apparent. The first one is that the empty stands bear a stark contrast to the billing of this tournament as a mini World Cup. The second thing is that if ICC is going to include minnows like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, they'd better not call this as the Champions Trophy. In fact, the first point I made, is the direct result of the second.

Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are simply not worthy of being included in a tournament like this. Their presence dilutes spectator interest, prolongs the tournament and leads to some embarassing matches, like the one between West Indies and Zimbabwe.

Lets take Bangladesh first. These guys have been a part of the big boys club for some time now and all they've managed to show for that are the odd freak wins here and there. Their problem lies in the fact that apart for 3-4 core players who have some decent international experience, the rest of the team is made up of very young and immature players. Now it is a good thing that talented youngsters are given a chance to play international matches. But the way these youngsters are discarded, after a failure or two, is bound to be disheartening for them. The fear of failure and the subsequent ouster from the team weighs heavily on the players' minds and this pressure was clearly visible in the way the Bangladeshi batsmen opened their chase of the 300-plus score racked up by Sri Lanka. Ashraful, who's a tremendous talent, I think, was clearly batting to no plan or strategy. When you chase a 300-plus score against a world-class side, you just cannot afford to waste the opportunities to score with the field restrictions on. He seemed concerned with keeping his wicket intact rather than attacking the rather wayward Sri Lankan bowling. The initiative he lost upfront spelt doom for the Bangladeshis as they lost by just 37 runs. But looking at the players they have now, Masrafe Mortaza, Abdur Razzak and Saqibul are players to persist with. Looking forward, if the administrators in Bangladesh keep their focus, the future isn't too dark for their team.

Now coming to Zimbabwe. It is sad to see a side that had players like the Flower brothers, Heath Streak, etc. in such sorry state now. But one cannot blame them really. Their problems are mostly non-cricket. With such unrest and upheaval in the country, cricket has taken the backseat. Players' selections are done based on considerations that have nothing to do with cricket. As a result, most of the 'regulars' have migrated to greener pastures like England, leaving a team that looks and plays like a school side. Cricketing basics are conspicuous by their absence and this is apparent in the way simple catches are dropped with irritating regularity. Zimbabwe used to be a top-notch fielding side. Now, I'd say they're among the worst fielding sides in the world! Having said that, I thought players like the captain Utseya, Rainsford and Ireland are bright sparks. These youngsters ought to be nurtured and persisted with. These guys, with the addition of a good batsman or two, would make a nucleus of a decent side. The only concern is... will the Zim cricketing authorities concentrate on cricket above all else?

So if these sides aren't upto the mark, what are they doing in a Champions Trophy?! Well, they shouldn't be here! A place in the Champions Trophy should be earned. And only the top six teams should compete. A free-for-all tournament like the one we have currently should not be called 'Champions' Trophy. It's a joke!! If the ICC wants to give more international exposure to weaker teams, why doesn't it conduct a 'Champions' trophy for the ICC member nations minus the Test playing teams? Surely there are enough funds available for that! Why is ICC hell-bent on making a mockery of a premier tournament by allowing embarassing match-ups?!! Just some questions for the old fogeys at the ICC to answer!

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