Intense action, tremendous support, a popular winner - the ICC Champions Trophy had it all
After two and a half weeks of manic action, the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 ended up in the hands of a new winner.
In many ways, Pakistan’s rise from No. 8 in the ICC ODI rankings to its maiden ICC Champions Trophy title captured the very essence of the tournament. At almost every press conference leading up to the tournament, the general consensus was that the Champions Trophy was one tournament where there were no favourites, and that all teams had an equal chance.
As things turned out, it wasn’t just lip service, the most incredible example being the Pakistan story. After a demoralising loss to India in its opening game, the least fancied and lowest ranked team in the competition stunned South Africa and sneaked past Sri Lanka to make it to the knockout stages. If that was impressive, what followed was staggering: Pakistan destroyed England and India in its next two matches to complete its dream run.
But the Pakistan fairytale was just one part of the story. The ICC Champions Trophy 2017 showed that it is a great leveller as there were plenty more unpredictable results. Bangladesh beating New Zealand to make it to its first semi-final in an ICC event, and Sri Lanka smashing India in the group stage proved that the gap between the sides is not too wide on a given day.
The tournament also surprised many in that it didn’t turn out to be a batsman v batsman contest. There was speculation ahead of the start that bowlers would have tough times on flat pitches, but ironically, the sides that made it to the final were the ones that had the best bowling attacks.
Scores in excess of 350 were expected to be the norm, but the highest score in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 was 338, which too came as late as the final. In fact, the Player of the Tournament was Hasan Ali, a bowler.
There weren’t too many nail-biters and hardly any tight finishes, with the Sri Lanka v Pakistan game in Cardiff being an exception. But the cricket was intense throughout and produced some memorable matches; England’s comeback from a dire situation to get past Australia, and Bangladesh’s wonderful rise from the bottom in their game against New Zealand, made for matches to remember for the months and years to come.
Most importantly, the intensity of the contests and the unpredictability of the outcomes made for interesting viewing. The diversity of United Kingdom’s population ensured every team had wonderful support and crowds thronged the stadiums. The India v Pakistan dream final broke records and set new TV benchmarks.
All the factors combined made the tournament a massive success, naturally leaving the administrators happy.
“Overall, very satisfied with the Champions Trophy,” said David Richardson, the Chief Executive of the International Cricket Council. “Across all aspects of the event really, from the enthusiasm of the volunteers - Cricketeers as they were called - to the broadcaster viewership, the digital content that we put out, umpiring, player behaviour, pitches... everything went well. Obviously there were some challenges in the beginning with the security situation after the attacks in Manchester and London but the team worked through those well.
“The cricket has been great. It shows that if you've got context and competitive teams, you will have a great event.”
If at all there were any blips, it was the weather in the initial part of the tournament. Two matches ended in a no-result due to rain, and both involved Australia. Fortunately, the weather cleared towards the business end of the tournament, but the earlier interruptions have made the administrators take notice.
“We had problems with the weather, which might prompt us to look a little bit more carefully at the potential for using reserve days for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 in some way or the other,” said Richardson. “We've had the odd game rained out but funnily enough, it never impacts as much as people imagine it would. It seems to rain a lot in the UK but it doesn't impact that many games. You'll find that countries like South Africa which are meant to be sunny countries, places like Durban, it's always raining. So it's not as bad as you might imagine. But we can also deal with that by maybe specifying some reserve days. Not maybe for every match, but maybe one reserve day a week that any rained out match can be played - something on those lines.”
Intense contests, a surprise winner, massive crowds and invaluable lessons - the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 has provided all, and given a massive boost to the One-Day International format.