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THE DEBATE: IS THE ICC CHAMPIONS TROPHY WORTHWHILE?

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YES: Mike Atherton (former England captain)

It is the first global 50-over tournament since the 2015 World Cup. Everyone watched that tournament, and it really invigorated that form of the game. The Champions Trophy is a terrific tournament. If the World Cup is about growing the game, the Champions Trophy is about the best in class, against each other. It is a short, sharp, snappy tournament where every game counts. You cannot afford to start in second gear, as otherwise you are out. Conditions will be key. If you look at the venues – Edgbaston, The Oval and Cardiff – there will be a variety of conditions. In the last Champions Trophy, in England four years ago, even if it was a rain-affected final, the pitches actually started to spin because they were used a lot and started to dry out. You need four things to win the tournament. You need a bowling attack with variety (even though pitches here might favour seam). You need captains who are able to hold their nerve under pressure, who are aggressive-minded; the way batsmen play these days, if there are wickets intact going into the last 10 overs it is hard to stop teams scoring, so you must have a mindset towards taking wickets early on. You need to be a dynamic fielding side. And also a flexible batting unit. In England there might be situations where you need wickets in hand, but as we saw here last summer, there were scores of 400-plus. Totals have increased over the last few years.

Predicting the winner is a mug’s game, but what I would say is that it will be a higher-scoring tournament than in 2013. I think the semi-finalists will be England, Australia, South Africa and India. England have an excellent chance; I rarely build England up ahead of a global tournament, but they have a formidable batting line-up. They were beaten finalists in the last two Champions Trophies here in 2004 and 2013. I think they can go one step further this time.  

NO: Derek Pringle (former England allrounder)

The Champions Trophy, of which this is set to be the last, began with laudable intentions back in 1998. Staged in Bangladesh, it was played by cricket’s elite in cricket’s emerging nations, to fund the second tier. It was called the ICC Knockout Trophy, though mutated into its current moniker in 2002, when it was held in a Test country for the first time. Yet those fine intentions became subverted and the main boards sought a bigger slice of the broadcasting pie. Ironic then, as it opened itself to whims of the TV market, that it should now make way for a more frequent World T20 – the current darling of TV schedulers and the advertisers they need to bankroll the game.

Although the Champions Trophy has a neat format, its frequency and relevance has been reduced since 2007 by the World T20. Indeed, the ICC proved the Champions Trophy’s expendability when they scrapped it in 2009 to create space for a Test Championship. That, to my mind, would be a better sacrifice, but the ICC reinstated the Champions Trophy once broadcasters got cold feet over more red-ball cricket. The move to a World T20 every two years, given the swarm of T20 leagues across the world, does risk overkill. Where T20 does score, though, is in scheduling men and women’s games back to back, given the brevity of the format. As attention spans shrink, 50-over cricket, despite a boost in scoring options and rates, still has periods of longueurs anathema to the modern fan. As the pursuit of new audiences seems to be the only economic model anyone takes notice of these days, two global 50-over tournaments is one too many. 

Results from April: Who can stop Middlesex retaining the Championship?

Hampshire 13%
Somerset 21%
Surrey 39% 
Yorkshire 27%