Colombo: Cricketers, officials and fans alike were on Monday tearing their hair in frustration after the weather gods ruined the climax of the Champions Trophy tournament.
The biggest cricket event after the World Cup, featuring 12 teams and 16 matches over three weeks, ended in a damp squib on Sunday when rain washed out the replayed final between India and Sri Lanka. "Not having a winner after so many matches is very frustrating," said Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya. "But can anyone fight the weather?" That was, however, not the reason why the tournament, organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to raise funds for the sport's development around the world, will be quickly forgotten. Strange scheduling norms where teams had almost a week off between matches, lack of crowds at games not involving the hosts and lop-sided results in the league stage made it a boring affair. "Now I know why people say Test cricket is the real thing," said Colombo-based colleague student Ranjan Abeysekera. "One-day matches can be so boring." Lowly teams like Bangladesh, the Netherlands and Kenya were no match for the established giants, raising fears that next year's World Cup in South Africa will be a let-down with many one-sided matches. With fellow minnows Namibia and Canada joining these three teams at the World Cup, as many as 26 of the 42 league matches will feature an established team against a lesser side. Of the 16 Champions Trophy matches, only two went down to the wire: South Africa's last-ball win over the West Indies in the league and India's 10-run defeat of the South Africans in the semi-final. Pakistan lost interest in the tournament after its loss to Sri Lanka in the first match on September 12. With the Dutch being the third team in the group, the loser had no chance of fighting back. Similarly, Australia was assured of a semi-final berth after defeating New Zealand in its first game, although both teams had to complete the formality of playing against Bangladesh. Not surprisingly, most of the attention focussed on what the players did off the field than on it. Security officials battled with players to enforce the 'access control' regulations ordered by the ICC in the teams' hotel. West Indian manager Rickey Skerritt accused police bodyguards of "high-handed and authoritative" behaviour after a move to crack down on women entering the players rooms. Police said in a letter to the ICC that three women were found in the rooms of Skerritt and his computer operator, Garfield Smith, in violation of the strict ICC access control rules. Skerritt later said that all visitors to his suite were persons of "impeccable character," but police revealed that three women who had been invited to his room had forged identity papers. After the row, the West Indies management asked for police guards to be withdrawn, a move refused by the security authorities. The Pakistanis were up in arms when it was reported that their defeat in the tournament opener had come under the scanner of the ICC's anti-corruption unit (ACU). The ACU, charged with preventing players from hobnobbing with bookmakers, denied Pakistan was in the dock and clarified that it had summoned tapes of all matches played in the tournament.