ICC Champions Trophy

3 things this Champions Trophy needs

2017-06-07 14:59
Men put up a poster for the ICC Champions Trophy at The Oval (AP)

Birmingham - It is structurally pleasing, smartly-organised, easy to follow and been luring healthy, vibrant and cosmopolitan crowds for the most part so far.

So why does it feel as though the latest version of the ICC Champions Trophy is somehow struggling to ignite for true “wow” factor, as if a piece or two of stubbornly soggy braai wood in a barrel?

Here are some suggested reasons why the 2017 event has been impeded to some extent:

1. It could do with better weather

If biting, blustery, brolly-reversing winds, sharp showers and maximum temperatures hovering around 15-16 deg C are your thing, then this Champs Trophy is for you.

But most cricket enthusiasts, of course, favour rather balmier and more benign conditions ... and they’ve been few and far between thus far.

The tournament was always at some risk from the fickle British elements, considering its still relatively early-summer scheduling here, and “changeable” remains the anticipated hallmark at least for the next few days as well.

Still, even though this is the ICC’s premier male multinational event of 2017, purists of the game ought not to gripe too much, as high summer in this country is still gratifyingly enough more dedicated to Test cricket - and a good headline series looms this year, too, as England tackle South Africa in four matches.

Nevertheless, it is well short of ideal when a major nation like Australia, with no option of any reserve days, suffer back-to-back no-results in the first two of their only three group games - first against New Zealand at Edgbaston (luckily so?) and then Bangladesh at The Oval (very lucklessly indeed).

It leaves them with a one-game shootout against England to try to bank a semi-final ... weather-permitting, of course.

2. Tight finishes have been surprisingly non-existent

For an event that correctly prides itself in a strength-versus-strength feel on paper, all four properly completed matches thus far have been disappointingly one-sided; certainly its appeal will lift dramatically if we get an overdue humdinger soon.

When Bangladesh went 300-plus against much-touted England in game one, it seemed we were already in for a potential thriller, but instead the hosts breezed home with almost three overs left and all of eight wickets to spare.

The other wins have all been by runs, but with disappointingly wide margins involved: South Africa beat Sri Lanka by 96, India beat listless, bumbling Pakistan in a much-hyped Subcontinent “derby” by 124 on the Duckworth/Lewis method, and on Tuesday England blitzed New Zealand by 87.

A last-over finish somewhere, shortly, would be hugely welcome.

3. Clarity over its future might be handy

The tournament was fairly justifiably branded a “hidden gem” in the June edition of English-based The Cricketer magazine by editor Simon Hughes, the former Middlesex (and once Northern Transvaal in the old Currie Cup) seamer.

But the 2017 event - effectively the eighth, though it has had name and format tinkering over the years - wasn’t even tipped to happen, with the 2013 prior edition, also staged in England/Wales, previously announced to be its last.

But it is a money-spinning event that many consider too good to supress, and the ICC had a change of heart in 2014.

Once again, though, the intended 2021 next Champs Trophy in India is shrouded in some doubt, as the world body juggles other issues and priorities on an increasingly hectic, challenging international roster.

The on-off sort of status isn’t ideal in ensuring a suitable heritage and gravitas for it; the commercial and broader success or otherwise of the latest one may finally be pivotal in determining whether it soldiers on with new zest, or is clubbed to death.

*Rob Houwing is attending the Champions Trophy for Sport24. Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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