The One Day International is a strange beast. Dreadful when played in bilateral series, thrilling and fascinating when played in tournaments. Cricket schedules in recent years have been fluffed through endless ODI matches between teams who couldn’t care less, boring fans, players and the media alike. Perhaps the ODI format needs events like the Champions Trophy in order to continue existing.
That is roughly the argument made in the latest post on Limited Overs, a homage to a much maligned format that the author came to the game through. I agree, up to a point. The Champions Trophy to me seems like a ridiculous idea. An exercise in greed and schedule stuffing when what cricket really needs is to grow beyond the eight major teams, but with fewer games to provide more impetus to those that get played. Morever, the naming of it is ridiculous, England have never won an ODI tournament and yet they are at the ‘Champions’ Trohpy?
But one thing I will say in favour of the CT13 is that it provides the ODI format with context. Teams will be going into the tournament desperate to win in a way that isn’t remotely as likely in a bilateral series, especially if said bilateral series comes after tests. The Champions Trophy gives teams something to play for in ODIs, something that was abundantly clear during the three match series between New Zealand and England that recently concluded. These games were about putting together the ideal combinations and finding form ahead of what is the most important international cricket event of the year.
While the Champions Trophy may lack history, prestige and global appeal compared to the World Cup, winning it does matter. In no other tournament do you get a schedule where any result is possible in every game. I am a strong advocate of associate and affiliate teams being at the World Cup in numbers, but that doesn’t mean I expect them to win any more often than very occasionally. There is no such certainty at the Champions Trophy, and that is an incredibly powerful motivator to actually tune in and watch cricket. And while the teams playing in the event may not necessarily be champions, whoever wins can truly call themselves that, because along the way they will have to beat almost every other top 8 team to get there.