CT set for real action after lacklustre start

Published: Thursday, October 12, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:Millions of cricket-mad Indians and the game's administrators are hoping the Champions Trophy will come to life when the big boys join the action.

The International Cricket Council's biennial tournament has had an uninspiring start with minnows Bangladesh and Zimbabwe clearly out of place in an event meant for champions, as the name suggests.

The ICC's decision to restrict the tournament to the 10 Test-playing nations in an attempt to make it more competitive has fallen flat with Sri Lanka and the West Indies breezing past the qualifying round without breaking a sweat.

Bored spectators in empty stands have seen Zimbabwe swamped by nine wickets and 144 runs in their two matches. Bangladesh went down by 37 runs to Sri Lanka and were thrashed by 10 wickets by the West Indies.

"There are certainly no champions playing out there... yet," said former England opener Geoffrey Boycott on television the other night. "It's time the real action starts."

A worried ICC is already thinking of revising the format of the beleaguered tournament, considered by the sport's world governing body as the second-most important event after the four-yearly World Cup.

"There is a proposal to have only eight teams at the next Champions Trophy," ICC media manager Brian Murgatroyd told AFP.

The ICC has played around with the format of the tournament which was launched in 1998 with the aim of generating revenue and popularising the game in developing countries.

The first two editions in Bangladesh in 1998 and Kenya in 2000 were knock-out events, but that was unsatisfactory since one bad match sent favoured teams, such as Australia, packing.

There were nine teams in 1998 and 11 in 2000, but the ICC increased the number to 12 in the last two tournaments in Sri Lanka (2002) and England (2004).

The 12 teams were divided into four groups of three, with the winners qualifying for the semi-finals.

The competitive spirit remained elusive with the presence of Bangladesh, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands in 2002 and the United States in 2004 ensuring plenty of mismatches.

This year's format has the top six teams on April 1 - Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, England and New Zealand - gaining direct entry in the main tournament.

Sri Lanka and the West Indies were always expected to come through the qualifiers, but the ease at which Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were overcome ensured a lacklustre start.

All that, however, should change from Saturday when Sri Lanka and the West Indies clash at the Brabourne stadium here to determine the final placings in the main tournament.

The winner will join Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa in group B. The loser goes to group A to play Australia, India and England.

"There will be a lot to play for on Saturday because neither team will want to be in group A with Australia and India," said former Australia captain Ian Chappell.

Two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals and the prospect of the world's best jostling for the next round is finally set to draw full houses at the four venues of Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Mohali.


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