Ashes casts shadow over ICC Champions Trophy

Published: Tuesday, April 25, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:The International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy in India later this year could be without top stars from Australia and England due to the Ashes series.

England coach Dunchan Fletcher has already hinted that players like Andrew Flintoff may skip the one-day tournament to prepare for the Ashes, and Australian vice-captain Adam Gilchrist said on Tuesday his team should think of doing the same.

"I think we have to look very, very seriously at that lead-in to the Ashes, definitely," Gilchrist said ahead of Australia's second one-dayer against Bangaldesh at Fatullah on Wednesday.

"There is the Champions Trophy, and I believe there are potential other games of one-day cricket that may come up prior to that.

"We have to be very careful about what we want to prioritise as most important."

The eight-nation Champions Trophy will be played across India from October 7 to November 5, ending less than three weeks before the first Ashes Test in Brisbane on November 23.

Australia are billed to play a one-day series in Abu Dhabi in September prior to the Champions Trophy, which will be followed by the five Ashes Tests and another one-day tournament at home ahead of the World Cup in the Caribbean in March-April.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting has already complained of excessive workload for players around the world due to the ICC's Test programme.

Gilchrist, 34, the aggressive wicketkeeper-batsman who is a regular in both forms of the game, has been busier than any other player in world cricket with 17 Tests and 31 one-dayers in the past 12 months.

England's Fletcher said in India earlier this month that the England Cricket Board had yet to decide if a full-strength side will be fielded at the Champions Trophy.

"We will look to see who will need a rest before going to Australia and we will plan accordingly," Fletcher said.

"We will have to look at the Champions Trophy and see what our attitude is towards it."

Both Gilchrist and Ponting have said recently that their next big goal is regaining the Ashes after last year's shock 2-1 defeat in England.

A Cricket Australia opinion poll among 1,200 sports fans earlier this month found 63 percent regarded the Ashes as the nation's most coveted sporting trophy, well ahead of the nearest contender, football's World Cup, on eight percent.

ICC boss Malcolm Speed, a former Australian cricket official, wanted players to stop complaining about their busy schedules, saying nobody had forced them to pursue the life of an international cricketer.

"They are engaged in their career of choice," Speed wrote in a signed article on cricket website Cricinfo.

"They are doing something that the vast majority of people who watch them in action can only dream of, and they are well paid too.

"The current crop of international stars are better rewarded for their efforts than any of their predecessors.

"Players have to realise it is a two-way street. They cannot, on the one hand, complain of playing too much and then turn round and head off for a lucrative spell of English county cricket when there is a break in the schedule."

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